Horner helps Schleck avoid losing time in Seraing

The Tour de France couldn't have started better for the RadioShack-Nissan team with the prologue victory from Fabian Cancellara and his successful yellow jersey defence during stage 1. While stage wins are important, there's also the part of the team that's focused on a good result in the final general classification in Paris. Andreas Klöden made it through the opening weekend of the race well while teammate Fränk Schleck is struggling to control the damage. Klöden is currently eleventh overall at 12 seconds from top favourite Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

The prologue in Liège on Saturday wasn't Schleck's preferred battleground and he ended up losing 31 seconds to GC favourite and prologue runner-up Bradley Wiggins (Sky). One day later Schleck nearly lost time again in the stage that concluded with a 2.4km long uphill finish in Seraing but he managed to salvage things. He is now 45th in the general classification.

"We controlled the race in the beginning [for Cancellara] but in the finale it was tricky," Schleck told Cyclingnews right after the finish line in Seraing. "It was pretty nasty on the finale there, but in the end I had Chris [Horner]. He got stuck, with me, behind and he brought me up there (to the front). Once I knew I was going to be in the first break it was cool. The team did a good job for Fabian."

For Horner, though, the efforts to bring Schleck back resulted in a loss of time during the final kilometre and he eventually crossed the line 55 seconds behind the lead group. Horner received a late call-up to the RadioShack-Nissan Tour de France roster when team leader Andy Schleck was forced to skip the Tour after fracturing his pelvis in a crash during the Critérium du Dauphiné. Horner finished tenth in the 2010 Tour de France, and later ninth after the disqualification of winner Alberto Contador. Despite this he doesn't have a protected role in the team, according to director sportif Dirk Demol, due to his age and fragile health condition.

Demol was content with the team's performance when he talked with Cyclingnews once all his men rolled in. "On a finish like this you know there can be time gaps. Unlucky enough we were a bit disorganized. This was due to a flat tyre from Tony Gallopin in the last 20 kilometres and a broken bike from Maxime Monfort. He didn't crash but his bike blocked and he couldn't continue.

"We had just helped Gallopin so we weren't immediately there to help him (Monfort) and the mechanic even had to run 100 metres to get to him. Of course, they were the two boys who were appointed to deliver the team at the foot of the climb. The goal was to keep the yellow jersey and, if there was a chance, to win the stage with Fabian. We tried but he was confronted with a super-Sagan," Demol said.

The Swiss rider didn't receive any support from Sagan in the final kilometre to keep the breakaway going and that way the Slovakian saved energy for the sprint. Cancellara kept going, as there was the possibility to extend his overall lead and a chance for the stage win. "We told him to keep going, that he was the strongest and that he would maybe win the stage," said Demol. "Of course you know that if Sagan is there that it would be difficult. Overall, we're pleased with the outcome."

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