By Brecht Decaluwé and John Trevorrow in Briançon
"We put a lot of effort in today. Popovych, my teammate worked very hard for me. In the end the group came back but all in all it was a good day for us," Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) reflected on his excellent performance today. During the first mountain stage Contador had already shown some strong accelerations and today he pulled off the same thing during the final kilometres of the Col du Galibier.
"The conditions weren't ideal," Contador referred to the headwind and his flat tyre. "I managed to save time instead of gaining time obviously there's still a long way to go," Contador said. It was clear that Contador didn't want the white jersey he was wearing, he wants the other one.
Yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen was never in serious trouble today and after the finish in Briançon we asked him if he was happy with his performance. "I'm still in yellow and I managed to defend the jersey quite well. Only Evans and Valverde took five seconds so I can be quite satisfied," Rasmussen told Cyclingnews. When Contador attacked on the Galibier Rasmussen surprisingly didn't respond although he is one of the best climbers of the peloton.
"I would like to have joined him but he attacked really hard. Before that I covered about 25 attacks from Valverde and Evans so I was a little bit at my limit to say the least. At the same time I knew that there was still a long way to go for them and eventually they were brought back." In the finale Rasmussen was alone in the front group and he was asked if he wasn't disappointed with the team's performance.
"The team did a really good job in controlling the race until halfway up the Col du Télégraphe. After that I got isolated but eventually only the top contenders were left in the group so you can't expect to have your full team there. It's still up to the team managers to decide but I think things are clearer now in my opinion," Rasmussen pointed out that he's going well and Menchov not.
Rabobank directeur sportif Erik Dekker didn't want to make a choice between Rasmussen and Menchov. "There are still two time trials coming up. Who knows how much time Rasmussen will lose there? It wouldn't be surprising if he loses five minutes and seeing Valverde within that time isn't too good. Rasmussen worked on his position but he didn't do much training on the time trial bike," Erik Dekker admitted.
"I'm still convinced that this can become a strange Tour de France and Klöden is the most consistent factor in it, Evans as well." Rabobank still didn't make a choice between Menchov and Rasmussen although the Russian is already 7'10" down on his teammate. "It's becoming clearer but everything has to be decided yet. The facts are there and Menchov is seven minutes behind but first we have to bring the yellow jersey to Albi where Rasmussen will ride the time trial of his life, then we will know more.
It's true that we can't keep saying that Menchov is equally strong as Rasmussen but what if Menchov can get into an escape? Because that's the Tour that we're going to get in my opinion." In contrast to Dekker was the other directeur sportif's, Erik Breukink, explanation. "I have mixed feelings today. Menchov had an off day and if you have an off day in the Tour then you can't win the Tour de France. Rasmussen is clearly the strongest rider of the two," Breukink said.
Tom Boonen didn't have to battle out intermediate sprints today as the breakaway was already clear, Cyclingnews asked the Belgian how he enjoyed his day in the mountains. "I was doing nothing else but hanging on. Just like other times I didn't suffer that much on the Télégraphe and Galibier but the Iseran was something else. I can't cope well with the height and I suffered a lot especially the last kilometres as there isn't enough oxygen. I wasn't afraid as five guys stayed with me; it was also reassuring that there were many other guys that got dropped," Boonen said.
For stage 10 the green jersey didn't have much ambition and send out the message that Quickstep will not be pulling the peloton. "It won't be a sprint tomorrow, who's going to work for a sprint?" Boonen pointed out that Quickstep will try to avoid a bunch sprint to make sure he can keep his 13-point lead over Erik Zabel.
Michael Rasmussen pointed out that "July is a pretty good time of the year to be on top of your game. At the moment I'm aiming for the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. If I can take the polka dot jersey as well then I'll take it but the main thing is the yellow jersey.