MTN-Qhubeka drops in teams classification
The MTN-Qhubeka team has been focussing on the teams classification in the Tour de France, but suffered a blow to their ambitions to overall current leaders Movistar on stage 19 to La Toussuire, where they weren't able to hold onto second and dropped to fifth. Serge Pauwels, Merhawi Kudus and Daniel Teklehaimanot were the team's top riders in the stage.
"Today was stage 19 which means it’s the hardest and means no power, so mentally I am really fresh but physically I am really tired," Merhawi Kudus said. "I was really focused for this stage to get into the break. Before the stage I was warming up [on the rollers] but after the beginning of the fist climb I was last, last, last position. I came back after 80km or something. Actually I was feeling better and better as the stage went on and I did my best to help Serge get back into the group. It was really hard but I am really happy with today."
"Today was a very tough stage," Pauwels said. "The GC contenders like Contador already started attacking on the very first climb of the day which was a bit surprising and it also made the racing a bit different to the previous days. I could feel the efforts of the last few stages but I remained confident and just stayed within my limits. I was really well supported by my teammates who did a fantastic job for me. Steve Cummings stayed with me on the first climb and then later on also Merhawi, Daniel and Steve again, helped me on the Croix der Fer when the race really exploded. They helped me to make up as much time as possible.
"In the end I think I actually did pretty well, I didn't have these big accelerations to follow the best guys but I rode for what I was capable of today and I'm super happy that I could move up one place on the GC. It means a lot of riders were struggling today and I will try and defend it tomorrow with Paris just around the corner."
BMC backing Sánchez in GC
After losing Tejay van Garderen to illness in stage 17 of the Tour de France, the BMC Racing Team refocused its efforts on Samuel Sánchez, who climbed from 15th to 12th overall with a strong ride on stage 19. Now two minutes outside of the top 10, the Spaniard is looking to keep moving up.
"In the final, I was starting to feel better and better," Sánchez said. "I am glad the team is satisfied with my performance today."
BGeneral Manager Jim Ochowicz said, "Tomorrow, we will see if he can move up a place or two again. He is consistent. In order to be where he is now, you had to deliver some results every day, for the past 20 days."
Sánchez will take his chances on the 110.5km stage to Alpe d'Huez.
"Alpe d'Huez is a special climb in cycling," he said. "We will see tomorrow what is possible. My performance today was good, but tomorrow is important for us, for the team."
Rohan Dennis, who wore the maillot jaune after winning the opening stage said he is just focusing on surviving to Paris. He said compared with last year's Vuelta a España, he came in much fitter at the start but has fatigued quickly in the last week.
"The first climb I actually felt alright, but I decided to ride my tempo and I saw everybody was going full gas from the bottom," Dennis said. "I went from pretty much first wheel to last wheel in three kilometres, then towards the top I started going past people, which was the plan. I just kept the same tempo and there was a big bunch off the back and we got on and then it was just survival.
"The opportunity of just finishing will be enough for me. 110km finishing on Alpe d’Huez I am just going to get the finish inside the time cut and then Paris."