Contador feeling and good and ready for Pyrenees
Defending champion Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Sungard) has played down the need to attack on today's first Pyrenees stage to Luz Ardiden, despite sitting over four minutes down in the overall standings. The Spaniard has fond memories of the climb, but wants to see how his knee is on the climbs before he tries to make a move.
"My knee is responding well and I am very happy [with how it has recovered], but keep in mind that today I have not climbed the Tourmalet [the penultimate climb tomorrow before Luz Ardiden]. I have to see how it responds, and on that basis, I will make a decision [about whether to attack] after the last descent."
Contador also affirmed that if he wasn't feeling up to it, he saw no issue in waiting till the Alps.
I think my time maybe a little later," he explained in regard to his form returning slowly after his May Giro d'Italia win. "For me the Pyrenees and Alps have the same importance - both are 50 percent of the Tour - so there is no rush."
Evans: "The real Tour starts tomorrow"
Cadel Evans (BMC) will take on his first real test of this year's Tour de France on Thursday as the race hits the high mountains for the first time. The Australian has looked impressive so far, and his BMC team surprised many with a strong ride in the stage two team time trial around Les Essarts. Speaking at the end of another wet and wild stage the Australian was looking forward to testing his legs on Luz Ardiden.
"For us the real Tour starts tomorrow," the Australian said.
"It's 211 kilometers long and it's pretty hard," Evans continued. "The first stage in the mountains of any Grand Tour is always a bit of something where someone has a bad day and someone has an extraordinarily good day. It is always some degree of an indicator. I'm just going to make my own race and see how the others go and hopefully I'll be competitive – or better."
Quickstep to join with Leopard-Trek?
Patrick Lefevere has played down rumours linking his team with possible mergers to two other current ProTour teams. The squad have been rumoured to be in discussions with Leopard Trek for the 2012.
"Maybe the investors have talked but I don't know. I know that Mr Zdenek Bakala met Mr Becca and some other investors by an invitation from the UCI a few months ago but more than that I don't know," he told Cyclingnews.
Lefevere ruled out a merger with either arm of the Omega-Pharma team, which will split at the end of the season.
"Lotto is excluded. With Omega we talked but we didn't a solution."
Quickstep's GC leader Kevin de Weert, who currently sits in 14th overall meanwhile was pleased to get through another nervous stage.
"Today was another gnarly day, made harder by the rain. The team did a great job keeping me out of danger. The climbs start tomorrow. It will be the first test on the mountains for everyone, I'm going to try to be prepared."
Luz Ardiden a special stage for Euskatel-Euskadi and Sanchez
Whenever the race hits the Pyrenees, the team from the Basque country are on the attack. The mountains that traverse the Spain-France border have been a happy hunting ground for the team in the past, and Samuel Sanchez has his sights set on doing something special on Luz Ardiden.
"Of the three Tour stage in the Pyrenees, Luz Ardiden is the most sentimental for the team. It's the place that [Roberto] Laiseka took the team's first Tour de France victory back in 2001. The roads will be dyed orange, and it will be important to do well, but every effort takes it's toll," Sanchez said.
And of a possible alliance with Contador the Spaniard was coy.
"It's something we have talked about. We are friends and I told you that if it attacks and I can go with him, [we] would be happy to help eachother. We both have time to make up and of course we'd be pleased to gain time on our rivals."