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Aldag frustrated by peloton's tactics

Rolf Aldag chats at the start.

Rolf Aldag chats at the start. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)

For the first time on this Tour de France the Columbia-HTC team didn't manage to set up a bunch sprint for Mark Cavendish, their double stage winner, with Thomas Voeckler and Mikhail Ignatiev surviving their long break to claim first and second.

Cavendish scooped the maximum points available to him, winning the bunch sprint for third, with Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) fourth and his closest rival for the green jersey, Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), back in tenth.

But at the finish Rolf Aldag, the Columbia-HTC directeur sportif, expressed his frustration with the efforts - or lack of effort - of the other teams, while also suggesting that the stage to Perpignan could be a sign of things to come. In other words, the boys in yellow-white-and-green shouldn't be relied upon to keep the race together.

It was notable, for example, that only two Columbia riders were sent to the front to help in the pursuit of the break.

"Six guys were in the lead, from five different teams, so there were 15 teams behind, so logically there should have been 15 teams interested in reeling them in again," said Aldag. "You can only win a bike race if you're in front, and not at the back.

"We achieved our minimal goal today," continued the German, "[which was] to get more points for Cavendish's green jersey. We can live with that. But I wonder if the other teams will be opening a bottle of wine tonight, and be happy with their result - I don't think so.

"If these tactics are going to be pursued, Cavendish will win the green jersey in the end. It might be close points-wise, but he will win it because breakaways will always succeed. For me, it's surprising to not even try and win.

"The other teams think to themselves, 'why should we pull if Cav wins it in the end anyway?' If the other teams are that resigned, why do they come here with their sprinters? Then, you could leave your sprinters at home. Then it makes no sense to take a sprinter to the Tour."

"Cervélo worked with one guy, Garmin worked really well. Farrar is not a favourite against Cavendish, but if he doesn't try, then he doesn't win. That's the right frame of mind.

"I mean, think about the other teams. They have not been on television for one second today. They are not on the podium, like we are with the white jersey [Tony Martin] and the green jersey, and nobody will realise they even started the race today. I'm talking about 12 teams out there.

"I would still see today as a big success," Aldag added. "We put some extra points on the jersey. I think we can be happy, and our sponsors can be happy. For the other teams, there were 12 that went from A to B with no benefit [for their sponsors], just a couple of flat tyres and extra work for the mechanics."

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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.

He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi

His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.

Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.