By Jeff Jones
Team CSC director sportif Scott Sunderland is not at the Tour until later this week, but was able to witness Fränk Schleck's victory on l'Alpe d'Huez yesterday from the comfort of his home in Belgium. Sunderland has worked with Schleck a lot in his one and a half seasons as a team director, and was happy to see the young Luxembourger take the most prestigious stage in the Tour.
After speaking with co-director Kim Andersen, who is at the Tour, Sunderland explained the team's tactics for stage 15 in detail. "It wasn't really planned for Fränk to be in the break today," he said. "It was planned for Dave and Jens to be. Jens was to be there for when the other riders came through, so he could help Carlos, which he did. He can die 10 deaths; this guy is amazing.
"Fränk was there and Carlos said, 'go with it'. He did, and set it up perfectly for the whole day. When you've got guys like Dave Zabriskie and Jens Voigt driving the break, that ensured that he had the lead that he needed to have going up the last climb to Alpe d'Huez.
"It just shows you the teamwork that we work so much for and the communication between the riders and the willingness to work for one another. It was a big boost to the riders. We're now very focused on keeping the teams classification through to Paris."
Sunderland described Schleck as "a great talent. After not having a bad year last year, he's turned around and is going to go home with his first Tour stage win. If you have to win a mountain stage, Alpe d'Huez and Mont Ventoux are the two big ones, and he's done it at the ripe old age of 26. He's had to show patience, but it's starting to pay dividends for him now. Last year, he was a bit frustrated that he wasn't quick enough, but in the beginning of this year, he was riding so well, picking up the Amstel Gold Race and now refocusing on the Tour."
Turning to the general classification, Sunderland believes that while Carlos Sastre still has a chance of making the podium, the maillot jaune looks relatively safe on the shoulders of Floyd Landis. "I don't see Floyd faltering at this moment, or in the next couple of days. But for the minor placings - for the top five - there's a big fight, unlike other years."
Landis gave the jersey away in stage 12 to Oscar Pereiro, and received a fair amount of criticism for doing that. "A lot of people said it was disrespectful, but hey, this is not cycling from an era ago," Sunderland commented. "We've had a lot of things change around. It's a sign of risk taking, but calculating it. I think he and Lelangue have taken the right decision.
"Pereiro fought till the end, and only lost it by 10 seconds. Dessel can fight for a top five too. It's a Tour with quite a few new names up there, and that's nice to see," finished Sunderland.