Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) came into his own in stage 11, beating Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis at the finish in Pla-de-Beret. The probably winner of the 2005 Vuelta a España is now a strong candidate for the Tour podium in Paris, as Brecht Decaluwé reports from Pla-de-Beret.
Q: Did you think you could do this, and your team could do this today?
DM: We left this morning thinking that we would see what happened during the race. We knew that AG2R would work a lot and T-Mobile as well. So it depended on the situation, if we would work or not. In the finale, the situation was that there were three of us all going well, so Michael made an enormous effort, and I have to thank him for that.
Q: Was this move with Boogerd and Rasmussen on the last climb premeditated?
DM: No, as I just said it depended on the race situation. After the Portillon, as there were three of us in the group, so we talked. Michael asked me if I was feeling well, and I said 'Yes'. So we decided to work.
Q: It looked almost easy for you, you looked very 'tranquillo' - can you tell us something about that?
DM: It might look easy, but it never is. The stage was very hard, there were more than 200 kilometres. But I did feel very well; I had great sensations in the finale. I was 'tranquillo' today; we'll see how I go next week...
Q: Speaking about your sensations during the race - were they the same as at the Vuelta last year? Because this climb resembled a Vuelta climb, with Sastre there, too... And do you think this Tour will be decided between you and Landis?
DM: No, we have to have more respect here. A part from myself and Landis, Sastre and Evans were also really good today, and we have to see what happens in the last week of the Tour. Today also wasn't a climb to open up big time gaps. We will see them afterwards, in the Alps.
Q: Before the Tour, the favourite teams were Phonak, Discovery and T-Mobile. Now we see that Rabobank is the strongest team.
DM: Yes, I think so. I was confident that we would come to the Tour with a very good team, and now we can see that it is truly a great team.