Lastras leads the Spanish push, Rogers keeps yellow
Spanish rider Pablo Lastras (Illes Baleares) took an impressive victory in stage 8 when he outsmarted Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) during the tough finale to Verbier. Lastras, who underwent an operation in March was thrilled to have regained his form so fast, purely from training. He was the strongest survivor of the 13 man breakaway that had stayed away for most of the stage, with Quick.Step keeping an eye on things for race leader Mick Rogers.
In the battle for the general classification, Rogers maintained his 20 second lead over Jan Ullrich and 22 to Brad McGee, who are his closest rivals going into tomorrow's final stage. But Euskaltel's Aitor Gonzalez made a great bid for the GC today by attacking Rogers with 6 km to go, finishing fourth in the stage and putting 1'02 into Rogers.
Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan spoke to Rogers post-stage, where he explained that he was riding at his limit. "Oh yeah - I was going as hard as I could. Aitor [Gonzalez] was just so strong - I couldn't go with him today... tomorrow's going to be a hard day."
Later on, in the press conference, Rogers seemed a little more confident: "Tomorrow should suit me better; the climbs are longer and a little less steep; I mean, everyone's tired...I expect a lot of attacks tomorrow. Everyone's still really close, so they're going to try their best to attack. Tomorrow will be the hardest day of the race: it's going to be short, it's going to be hot, it's going to be fast - so don't expect too many finishers tomorrow."
With the Tour de France looming, was Rogers worried about spending too much energy here? "No, there's still 10 days [till the Tour], and more than ever, I think it's a good test... I think it's perfect."
Rogers predicted a group of 20 to fight it out to the finish in tomorrow's big mountain stage. "We could see a [front] group of 20 on the first climb and that's it, and another 20 fighting it out till the finish. I'd prefer a flat day (smiles), but the organisers want the best race possible, and the most exciting race right till the finish line."
Who's the favourite to win tomorrow? "Me," concluded Rogers.