Lampre's Danilo Hondo seems to be a versatile helper for his Italian team, leading out Alessandro Petacchi in the bunch sprints and preparing the way for Damiano Cunego's escapes in the medium mountains at the Tour de France. In stage seven to Les Rousses, the German made the day's breakaway together with mountains classification leader Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), with the aim of helping Cunego in the final part of the stage.
"Our plan was to have someone in front if Damiano [Cunego] was able to get away," Hondo told Cyclingnews as he waited at the anti-doping control. "It sort of happened like that, but Damiano couldn't hold Chavanel's wheel. That was a pity, as he would have had good chances to get the stage win if he'd been with Chavanel, who could have ridden for the yellow jersey."
Hondo explained that his physical abilities enabled him to be fast in the finishes while also getting over the climbs. "I was never a pure sprinter. I'm able to pass the mountains quite well,” he said. “My form is good, and sometimes it's better to ride in a breakaway on this sort of stages than in the bunch. In front, you can ride your own pace, but back in the peloton sometimes they hit it hard and you get fried from the rhythm changes."
Even though the stage did not pan out the way Lampre intended, with Cunego finishing more than three minutes down, his German team-mate was happy about his move.
"You have to try to see where it takes you - otherwise you'll just never know what is possible," he said. "Chavanel is in great form, which he already showed in Belgium. For me, it was still a good day."
As good as the day was for Hondo for Chavanel, it was raced under terribly hot circumstances as the tarmac was melting on every road throughout the stage. French radio reported road surface temperatures of over 65 degrees Celsius.
"The combination of gravel and tar just makes the road surface so sticky," continued Hondo. "It felt like it was 40 degrees today. It's an additional burden, as you have to drink a lot and try not to overcook it. You also have to remember to eat, because when you drink this much, you can't eat so much or you forget to."
The Italian team will now focus on getting over the Alps in the best possible conditions to set double stage winner Petacchi up once again for a bunch sprint in the transitional stages.
"Our goal is to win another stage with Alessandro, and I think he is the strongest sprinter here with Mark Cavendish," said Hondo. "I hope that these mountain stages will weaken Cavendish a bit. Alessandro is the better mountains rider, so we hope that he gets over them well. I'm convinced that we can win another stage and even go for the green jersey - that classification will be interesting until Paris."
With Cervélo's Thor Hushovd leading the points classification and other sprinters also possibly within reach of the green jersey, Petacchi might have to choose between going for another fast finish victory or scoring regular points for the jersey.
"Alessandro definitely wants to win more than going for intermediate points. But certainly he would like the green jersey, too," confirmed Hondo.