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National theme bike for Tour's lone Japanese rider
Fabian Cancellara resplendent in yellow
American team eying team classification without yellow helmets
Despite a tumultuous build-up to the 2012 Tour de France, the RadioShack-Nissan team managed to respond to all the criticism with a stunning performance from their time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss rider won the 6.4km long prologue in Liège, Belgium, and he has the honour of wearing the yellow jersey during the first stage, a loop from Liège to neighbouring town Seraing.
A man who wasn’t present in Liège to celebrate the victory was team manager Johan Bruyneel. The Belgian opted to stay away from the Tour de France to allow the team to focus on the race itself instead of on the USADA doping allegations. “I heard from Johan on the phone yesterday. He is really happy. He said that it wasn’t a secret that he’ll miss the Tour. Will he come back on his decision? For now he’s not thinking about that,” Dirk Demol said. “If there was a phone call from Lance? No.”
After grabbing the yellow jersey with Cancellara, the team might opt to tactically give it away during the first stage on Sunday, or they might opt to make the team work and try to keep Cancellara in yellow. In the past Bruyneel's teams often decided not to defend yellow in order not to jeopardize the team’s general classification ambitions with Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.
“We’re starting today with the intention to defend the jersey; we’re not giving it away,” Demol said. “It’s a stage made for Sagan. He didn’t hide his ambitions to get the green jersey and he can do a good job in that battle today.
“On the other hand, it’s not a bad finish for him [Cancellara] today, to be honest. We’re convinced that there will be gaps in the peloton at the finish so if Cancellara can finish in front then we should be able to keep it.”
In the team classification, the RadioShack-Nissan team is currently sitting in second place, four seconds behind the Sky team from Bradley Wiggins. All riders of the Sky team were lining up with a yellow helmet in Liège on Sunday morning, a new rule from Tour de France organizer ASO. “I didn’t see it in the rule book so it’s something they encourage rather than enforce.
“We’re aiming to finish on the podium in Paris with Andreas Klöden or Fränk Schleck but the team classification is part of our ambition too. But when we lead the team classification we will be wearing normal helmets. We don’t have the intention to wear yellow helmets. We feel that stuff is more for the last day, on the Champs Elysees,” Demol said.