Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) says he is expecting a different Tour de France to develop in the third and final week of the race as the Dutchman continues to battle for one of the higher spots in the GC ranking.
The 30-year-old is on the outer edge of the group of podium contenders who are well behind race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) but currently all within a two-minute time band of each other. Kelderman is sixth at 6:16, 18 seconds behind fifth-placed Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroen) and only 58 seconds behind second-placed Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo).
Although he's taken fourth in the Vuelta a España and cracked the GC top three in the Giro d'Italia last year behind Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) and Jai Hindley (DSM), this is by far Kelderman's best performance in a Tour de France to date after placing 79th in 2015, 32nd in 2016, and crashing out in 2019.
Kelderman made a strong start, placing fifth and fourth in the opening two stages in Brittany. But having been caught up in the crash caused by the poster-wielding fan on the first day, a resulting elbow injury made it hard going for him in the first week time trial, a stage which should have suited the former Dutch time trial champion.
Since then, Kelderman has remained either with the yellow jersey group or a few seconds off the pace at worst, as happened on the Ventoux. He has yet to put in any major attacks but has kept himself in contention by riding steadily. With a time trial still to come, the team's stated pre-Tour aim of a top-five in Paris for Kelderman seems well within his current target range.
"I've had a really good Tour de France so far, it was only the time trial that wasn't so great," Kelderman said in a rest day press conference. "There are still three hard stages to come to try and create some more differences. Hopefully, I'll be good on those days. And hopefully, I'll have something left in the tank for that last TT."
Although Pogačar currently stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field, Kelderman said in the second week of this year's Tour, the Slovenian has been playing a much more conservative kind of game.
Asked if it had felt like Pogačar had a five-minute advantage during the race itself from the Alps onwards, Kelderman said "not really. In this week he's just been controlling the race, and apart from on the Ventoux, there haven't been that many gaps."
"The guys around me can fight for the podium. We're all still close to each other, all a bit on the same level of strength," he added.
The second week of the Tour, barring the brief display of fireworks at the summit of the Ventoux, has felt like something of a phoney war on the GC front. However, the third week will be much less of a waiting game, Kelderman predicted, "with a different kind of racing."
An upcoming change in the weather is one reason why there will be bigger differences than before, he concluded. But perhaps more importantly "those two uphill finish stages [on Wednesday and Thursday] will be the most decisive of the week."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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