By Brecht Decaluwé in Argelès-Gazost (Hautacam), France
There are a few surprising names on the top of the overall classification after the Pyrenean mountains. Alongside American Christian Vande Velde, who is third, German Bernhard Kohl is another name not normally seen contending for the overall in a Grand Tour. Kohl jumped away from the Evans group together with Fränk Schleck and the stage ten winning Saunier-Duval duo.
After being dropped by these three riders, Kohl disappeared from the television coverage, but the Austrian did manage to stay ahead of the group of favourites to finish fourth in the stage just 1'05" from Piepoli and Cobo. After the stage Kohl got stuck on Hautacam and only managed to get back in the team hotel several hours after the stage finish. Kohl, a 26 year-old Austrian from Klagenfuhrt, waited a long time in the doping control truck and missed the helicopter that could get him off the mountain quickly.
Kohl was still delighted about his performance and told Cyclingnews that he expected to attack the race today. "This morning I told the team that I would attack. On the Tourmalet I felt that my legs were super. I looked around and noticed the others weren't going too well," Kohl said.
During the sixth stage to Super Besse, Kohl was held up behind the crash of his team-mate and then yellow jersey Stefan Schumacher. That crash cost him 32 seconds, and Kohl still has not gotten over the disappointment. "Now I'm regretting the time loss that I had in Super Besse. On the other hand I'm happy that we didn't take control over the peloton that day. If we had defended the yellow jersey [of Schumacher] in Super Besse then our performance today wouldn't have been possible," Kohl said.
"Today the team did a perfect job by having Markus Fothen in the early breakaway. He did a perfect job in the descent and the flat section before the climb to Hautacam. I'm absolutely overwhelmed now. I didn't expect to be fourth at this stage of the race.
Although Kohl might seem the type of rider who will drop away during one of the next mountains stages, the Austrian is not planning to let that happen. After a crash during the time trial in the Dauphiné Liberé, he prepared to be in perfect form in the Tour de France. "I was badly injured with deep cuts in my skin, but luckily my bones were OK. As soon as I could, I started riding on the home trainer and a couple of days later I went out to do a reconnaissance of all the mountains stages of the Tour de France, together with a friend who was in the car," Kohl said.