Kim Kirchen has rediscovered his form and confidence after finishing with the top three riders in the overall classification on today’s mountain stage to Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
Kirchen finished in a group that included Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong and Bradley Wiggins; his performance moved him up to thirteenth overall and he is now the highest placed Columbia rider on general classification.
The Luxembourger broke his collar bone earlier in the year and missed the Classics season as a result. The injury meant that he couldn’t defend is crown at Fleche-Wallone and also left him short of form in the first part of the Tour.
"My legs were the best they’ve been so far in the Tour and I could follow the first group of guys, maybe not the best, but I’m up there with the top ten guys now. I wasn’t on my limit today either," Kirchen said at the finish.
Kirchen was distanced by Andy Schleck’s initial surge on the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard as a group of riders that included Contador, Wiggins, Fränk Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali formed. However Kirchen was able to follow Lance Armstrong's surge and then carried on at his own pace before rejoining the head of the race before the final summit of the day.
"I feel like I’m getting stronger but tomorrow is going to be one of the hardest days. I’ll try to recover as best I can. I wasn’t in great shape for the prologue in Monaco but I still believe that I’m getting better and better and today was a great day.
Kirchen finished seventh in last year’s Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. "I'm up there and I have the same legs as I had last year," he said.
"Now I have the confidence back and I’ll try and do a good final week. However in these stages you can lose minutes, not just seconds."
After the Tour, Kirchen will decide whether to do the Vuelta as well as the World Championships. "That’s the plan but I’m not sure that’s what I want to do. We’ll see what my physical condition is like after the race."