By Hedwig Kröner and Shane Stokes
After putting in an excellent performance on the way to Super-Besse yesterday, finishing 19th, 23 seconds behind the winner, Garmin-Chipotle's Christian Vande Velde was happy with how the race went for him so far. And he even thought about trying to find out exactly how far he can go on the overall classification of this year's Tour de France, on which he is now ranked fourth, a mere 44 seconds away from the lead.
"I shouldn't understate myself and I should really start looking after myself more for the overall," he told Cyclingnews after the stage, in which he initially wanted to work for team-mate David Millar, who had a chance to go for the overall lead. But the final 10 percent gradient ramp up to the ski station proved to be too much for the time triallist's legs.
Vande Velde broke away in the company of Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) some five kilometres to the line. "The attack was planned. I was going to go and then David would have a free ride to the finish. I didn't see how he got on, though," said the American.
"My legs felt great. I was away with Piepoli who is probably the best climber in the world. I found myself a little out-gunned, in a no-man's land I didn't want to be in."
The pair was caught by the favourites' field as they tackled the final, hardest bit of the climb. Vande Velde held on well but Millar lost 51 seconds to the winner of the stage, Kim Kirchen (Columbia). Nevertheless, Garmin-Chipotle will continue its aggressive riding and hopefully score a victory. "The team will keep attacking... not just on the climbs but everywhere," concluded Vande Velde.