RadioShack-Nissan will be studying the outcome of Monday’s time trial particularly closely as it could well result in a shift in the focus of the team’s strategy going into the Alpine stages at the 2012 Tour de France. After co-leaders Fränk Schleck and Andreas Klöden both lost time on the steep climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, Haimar Zubeldia and Maxime Monfort emerged as the team’s two form riders. Zubeldia continued his strong performances on stage 8, coming in with the maillot jaune group and is now fifth, 59 seconds behind Bradley Wiggins.
Team director Dirk Demol says that both he and Monfort will be given more freedom in the coming few stages.
“I think we’ll a have look at how things go on the stage to Porrentruy today and try to do a very good time trial," he told Cyclingnews before stage 8. "We’ve got two riders in the top 10, Haimar and Maxime, who are sixth [he moved up to fifth - ed] and seventh and aren’t bad at all in time trials. They can do their own race. We’ll take another look at how the race is going for us after the time trial, then we’ll decide what to do after the rest day."
Demol pointed out that both riders have been in good form coming into the Tour and acknowledged that the team has to be honest with its situation and allow their form riders an opportunity. “Haimar was out for a long time at the start of the season. He only started racing again a month or so ago at the Bayern Rundfahrt, and then he did the Dauphiné and finished 10th, which showed he was in good condition. He’s already finished fifth in the Tour on two occasions so we know he has the experience to finish well up. Even last year, when he was not in good shape, he finished 17th.
“As for Maxime, he has also shown he’s in good condition. The time trial never lies and he was third just last month in the long TT in Switzerland so it’s normal for us to support him until after the time trial, then we will take stock again.”
With seven riders in the top 26 overall, RadioShack do have a lot of tactical options and Demol acknowledged that they will aim to take advantage of them. “We’ll be looking closely at the stages ahead to see how best to make use of them. The level of the team is very high and if we had a strong leader we could really go a long way. Although we perhaps don’t have the strong leader we needed, our goal is to have an impact further into this Tour,” said the Belgian DS.
Asked about Sky’s performance on the stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, he said: “Yesterday we saw that Sky are impressively strong. If they continue at that level they are going to be almost unbeatable, but there’s still a long way to go…”