By Brecht Decaluwé in Tignes
Young German ace Linus Gerdemann was unable to keep his yellow jersey in Tignes and after the finish Cyclingnews was there to listen to his reaction. "In the final kilometres it was very hard. My teammates worked unbelievably hard for me, I think I battled hard for the jersey," Gerdemann talked about his lost battle. "Anyway, having the yellow jersey was not a burden, it was a pleasure, it was priceless," Gerdemann reacted after falling 43 seconds short to keep the lead. "Concerning tactics we still have to see of course, Kim Kirchen was super strong. Tomorrow there's the rest day and then we can see further ahead. The heat is on now but I'm going to take some rest tomorrow," Gerdemann said.
Kim Kirchen worked hard to keep his young teammate Linus Gerdemann in the yellow jersey but their mission was unsuccessful. Combined with the crash of captain Rogers it was a bad day for T-Mobile. "It was very hard today. We tried with Rogers in the breakaway and he did it. The breakaway with him could've gone very far and that would have been good for us [...] if you don't try then you can't win," Kirchen looked back. The Luxembourgian also talked about his own performance. "For sure I'm happy that I could help and do my work, for me it was a good day," Kirchen said to Cyclingnews.
Robbie McEwen rolled in at Tignes more than an hour after stage winner Michael Rasmussen, thus failing to make the time cut. Pretty early on in the stage McEwen had to let go of the peloton and it was clear he wouldn't make it. Nevertheless he kept himself to the promise that he wouldn't abandon. Two days ago he reminded us that he managed to finish his nine previous Tours and he wasn't planning to climb off the bike if he didn't have to. His crash in the first stage - which he won - kept bothering him and after finishing very last in Saturday's mountains stage his crusade ended in Tignes. McEwen didn't want to complain too much after the finish. "There are many guys who make it to Paris but they haven't got a stage win under their belt, so I'm happy with that. Still, it wasn't much fun to climb a mountain at 10 km/h but I did prefer to finish the stage rather than to abandon," McEwen said.
While many riders still had to finish their stage the news reached us that T-Mobile's Patrick Sinkewitz collided with a spectator while returning to the team hotel in the valley. Sinkewitz had finished at 19'17" and he rode back on the same road as the race was using, as often happens after a mountain top finish. Sinkewitz was reported to have hurt his head, possibly breaking his nose while the spectator involved was brought over to the hospital of Grenoble with a helicopter; the man was reported to have severe injuries. As a result of that incident the evacuation away from the finish in Tignes was jammed while the T-Mobile team was dealt another blow.
Rabobank clearly is the winner of the day capturing the yellow jersey for the second time in their history, after Marc Wauters in Antwerp back in 2001. "Just before the rest day, you can't time it any better; it's going to be a great party," Erik Breukink said to Cyclingnews. It can be discussed if chicken Rasmussen was allowed to go or if the other teams weren't strong enough as Rasmussen almost didn't lose time during the final climb despite being in the attack all day long.
"I think they waited too long at the foot of the climb to set a fast pace. There was no action in the peloton so he was given some liberty. The teams who had somebody in the break gambled that their guys would save the day but that proved to be wrong. What happened with Rogers was bad luck of course. T-Mobile had the perfect tactics with their team leader in the breakaway and the yellow jersey in the peloton, the best defence for the yellow jersey," the former white jersey winner said.
Rabobank is in a perfect position now to defend the jersey as they have two team leaders who can battle for the GC now, with Denis Menchov and Rasmussen. "That's true as long as it stays like that because it's changing everyday in this Tour de France. Still, the teams won't be keen to allow breakaways 30' this year, the teams are reacting faster nowadays," Breukink said.
Alexandre Vinokourov said after the stage that "The last three kilometers were very tough. I was lucky that the team worked so hard for me and especially Andreas at the end of the stage. My muscles are tired, I didn't recover so well… For me, the essential was not to loose too much time. Because I still have the hope to win the Tour. Tomorrow is the rest day, that is the best thing that can happen to me !"
See also: Linus Gerdemann feature