Jurgen Van den Broeck only slipped a single place - from eight to ninth - in the Tour de France general classification at the end of stage nine's time trial. However, it is the increased deficit to current race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) that should be most concerning for the 29-year-old. The Belgian climber began the stage 2:11 behind and ended the day 5:20 from the British race leader.
Van den Broeck was consistent in his test against the clock, losing approximately one minute at each time check, including the final one at the finish line in Besançon. It wasn’t his greatest performance but his 26th-place time wasn’t too far off the majority of the general classification contenders – barring Wiggins and second-placed Chris Froome (Sky).
The Belgian is now looking forward to a rest day before the proper climbing stages begin. Stage ten from Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine will be the first big test for the climbers as the route passes three categorised climbs, including the 1,501m Col du Grand Colombier. This brutal mountain will see the dwindled peloton race up the 17.4km climb with an average of 7.1 percent and pinches of 17 percent.
“We have not seen any real mountains and from what I have seen, there are some who can crack. Once you crack in the mountains and you can tumble all the way down. Just ask Evans,” he told nieuwsblad.be in reference in Cadel Evans’ failed 2009 Tour campaign.
Van den Broeck knows he can put the race under pressure like he did on stage eight – with the help of his teammate Jelle Vanendert. If he wants to make up time to Wiggins and the rest, he’ll have to do something in terrain that suits him most.
“It depends on the legs and the situation, but if everything is working properly, I'll definitely try attacks like Sunday [stage eight].
“I remain positive. There will be a great battle in the mountains. We have not seen the Col [mountains], so actually it is too early for conclusions,” he said.