BMC team manager John Lelangue has declared himself pleased with the state of play following the first mountaintop finish of the Tour de France, which saw Cadel Evans (BMC) come home alongside new overall leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky). The pre-race favourites were part of an elite group of five riders that formed as a result of ferocious pace-making from Sky on the final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday.
Although Evans attacked inside the wickedly steep final 200 metres, he was unable to rid himself of Wiggins, while Sky’s Chris Froome zipped past to claim the stage win. Evans came across the line in second place, and now lies second overall, still 10 seconds behind Wiggins.
“It was a positive day,” Lelangue said as he waited to descend from the summit. “We were second on the stage and almost won it, we didn’t lose any time and we put time into quite a few other leaders.”
While Wiggins was able to reply on the help of Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michael Rogers, Richie Porte and Chris Froome on the final climb, Evans was left somewhat more isolated. His climbing cadre of Tejay Van Garderen, Steve Cummings and Amael Moinard were quickly dispatched as the road went upwards, but Lelangue insisted there were mitigating circumstances.
“It was a bit of a special finish, as it was so short. Our climbers are better suited to long mountains,” he said. “The passes we’ll face in the Alps and Pyrenees are better suited to Cummings, Van Garderen and Moinard. It’s not a worry.
“The team is working well with 8 riders who had Cadel well positioned before the final climb. Tejay Van Garderen worked in the rolling 2km beforehand as we had planned this morning.”
Van Garderen’s efforts saw him dislodged from the leading group as the climb began to bite and he lost the lead in the young rider classification to Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis). “The white jersey wasn’t an objective,” Lelangue said. “We just said beforehand that we’d see where we were in the third week. You have to make choices and the choice was to sacrifice Tejay on the flat beforehand.”
Evans attempted to jump clear of Wiggins and Froome on the final kick up to the finish line, but his effort was reined in and he had to settle for second on the stage. As far as Lelangue is concerned, only one prize is important. “Stage wins aren’t really an objective as there are no time bonuses,” he said. “It brings you some small satisfaction and champagne in the evening, but it’s not our main concern.”
The stage winner was Chris Froome, who still had the wherewithal to dislodge Evans and Wiggins after setting a hyperactive pace on the final two kilometres of the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. “We saw him at the Vuelta last year and we expected it,” Lelangue said. “But it was still a good day.”
Although Evans provided an ample demonstration of his good condition on Saturday’s stage, his relative isolation in the finale will raise questions as to the relative strength of the BMC and Sky teams. Wiggins had a line of black jerseys to shepherd him towards the summit, while Evans was all alone once the Sky pace began to tell on the climb.
Lelangue, however, insisted that it was not a source of concern. “No, we’re not thinking about the teams classification,” he grinned.