By Gregor Brown in Jausiers
Team Silence-Lotto's Yaroslav Popovych was a surprise name in the winning breakaway which fought for victory in Jausiers on Tuesday. Hired to the team as a domestique for Cadel Evans, Popovych struggled to stay with his team captain as he fought to defend the yellow jersey. He blamed his bad form early in the Tour on an ill-timed training camp at altitude in June.
His team gave him the latitude to enter the breakaway, and he found the right move at kilometre 42. "It was good because I made the escape," said Popovych to Cyclingnews following the 157-kilometre stage from Cuneo to Jausiers in the Alps.
The Ukrainian went on to fight for the stage win against Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) and David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne). Popovych, winner of a stage in 2006, was unfortunately last of the four to arrive. "I provided coverage for the team and I also tried to race a little for myself."
He explained before the stage that he would give his all to help lead Evans off the 23.5-kilometre descent of Bonette-Restefond. He planned to put pressure on race leader Fränk Schleck and CSC-Saxo Bank team-mate, Carlos Sastre.
"The team gave me the right to try for a stage win. Certainly, if something dangerous happened to Evans I would have waited."
A crash on the previous decent of Col de la Lombarde put some fear into Popovych on the drop into Jausiers. "I was with a lot of strong riders on the descent. I crashed on the first descent and I did not want to risk it on the second one. I wanted to try an attack in the last kilometre."
The finish did not go to plan, just like much of Popovych's Tour de France. He revealed before the stage that he suspects the reason his form is off is that the team's pre-race camp on the high-altitude roads in Italy did not suit him.
"I did the Passo Stelvio camp and, for my body, it was not good to be so far up for one week. Everyday we were riding up and down the climb."
After the Tour, he plans to examine more closely where he might have gone wrong in his preparations.