Russian in the hunt for Tour podium finish
On Monday afternoon three men took profit from the mechanical of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) on the Port de Balès: Alberto Contador (Astana), who took over the yellow jersey, was the primary beneficiary but the third and fourth-placed riders on general classification, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) respectively, also reduced their time gap to Schleck.
Menchov responded to the attack from Contador and said that he was focusing on following the Spaniard, rather than checking out what was going on with Schleck. "I can't explain [what happened with Schleck] because I didn't see what happened. We know that Alberto and Andy play with each other. We have to follow one of them. I saw the reaction of Contador and I thought it was decisive, so I tried to follow him," Menchov said.
When asked if he felt that what Contador did was fair play or not Menchov passed on the question to the Spaniard. "I don't know. You'll have to ask him. The question [what to do with Schleck] didn't come up in me [during the race]," Menchov said.
Menchov told Cyclingnews yesterday that he considered both Sanchez and Schleck as his main rivals for the podium. By gaining 39 seconds on Schleck the 32-year-old Russian rider now lies at two minutes and five seconds behind the unfortunate Luxembourger. With only two mountain stages left Menchov is more and more convinced that he can reduce the gap enough to go past Schleck in the 52km time trial on the penultimate stage. If he also takes thirteen seconds on Sanchez then he would finish second, which would be his best result ever in the Tour de France.
Theoretically Menchov still has a chance to win the Tour de France but the Russian played down those expectations. "It's difficult and too early to say. Today nothing changed, concerning positions. I'm quite far from Contador and he's a very strong climber. Perhaps there's a chance but I'll take it day-by-day," Menchov said.
One of those days where Menchov will try to improve his position is tomorrow's stage towards Pau, including two first category and two hors catégorie climbs: the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d'Aubisque.
What do you think about the Andy Schleck mechanical? Should his GC rivals have waited or were they in the right to attack? Weigh in on the Cyclingnews Forum.
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