German still one of five podium contenders
Astana rider Andreas Klöden wasn't too happy with his performance in the time trial around the Annecy lake. Even though he retained his fifth overall placing in Thursday's major GC reshuffle, the tall German had hoped for a better result ahead of Saturday's mountain top finish on the Mont Ventoux, the last decider of the Tour's overall standings before its finish in Paris this Sunday.
"I didn't achieve what I expected," Klöden told L'Equipe after the stage, which saw him finish in ninth place, 53 seconds down of overall leader and teammate Alberto Contador. "I simply wasn't feeling good. It's a pity because a better performance would have enabled me to reach out for a podium spot before the Ventoux."
Still, the German has remained in contention with his closest rivals, the Schleck brothers of Team Saxo Bank, Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) and teammate Lance Armstrong all within two minutes of each other. While Contador's final victory in Paris seems untouchable at this point, the second and third placings will be decided on the slopes of the dreaded 'bald giant' of Provence.
Klöden had good chances of achieving another podium finish this year - which would be his third - but an attack of his teammate Contador on stage 17 made him lose precious time on Wednesday.
"It would be a dream if Lance [Armstrong] also made it on the podium. The three first placed of one team would be truly exceptional," added Klöden.
Astana sports director Alain Gallopin believes the 34-year-old still has good chances. "Andreas hasn't said his final word yet. On the Ventoux, he can take advantage of many possible situations," the Frenchman said.
Still, 1:27 behind Andy Schleck, Klöden needs to do some serious climbing on the Mont Ventoux to go past the current GC runner-up. Chances are team management will ask the German to help consolidate Armstrong's third placing instead of riding for himself.