By Brecht Decaluwé in Cholet, France
Gerolsteiner scored an important victory in the Tour's Stage 4 time trial, where Stefan Schumacher took the stage win and the leader's yellow jersey. The team is in search of a replacement for the bottled water company, whose support runs out at the season's end. The victory in France might be just what the squad needed to seal a new deal.
Schumacher, who has had significant victories like the 2007 Amstel Gold Race and two stages and a stint in the 'maglia rosa' in the 2006 Giro d'Italia, still wasn't amongst the favourites to take the win and yellow in Cholet. That honour belonged to world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) and Garmin-Chipotle's David Millar. But Schumacher didn't count himself out.
"I've never focused on the time trial – for instance at the world championships - but two years ago, I did well in the Giro d'Italia [fourth - Ed.] and I've won the time trial in the Tirrenno-Adriatico [in 2007 - Ed.]. I must admit that I was surprised to take yellow. I know I was going well, but this is amazing."
Schumacher expects to hold onto the yellow jersey after tomorrow's stage [five], which is suited to the sprinters, but knows that the 11 kilometre uphill finish in Super-Besse the following day will present the biggest challenge to his defense of the general classification lead.
"The stage to Super-Besse will be very difficult. Guys like Kirchen are only at 12 seconds and they'll surely attack me. I will need very good legs to keep the jersey," he said. "Anyway, I'm not here to win the Tour de France. I wanted to wear the jersey and win a stage and that's what I achieved; everything else is a bonus. We know that it will be difficult to keep it for a series of days."
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