Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) spoke bullishly at the end of stage six of the Tour de France as he looked ahead to the coming days' rendezvous in the Alps, where he predicted that RadioShack would prove themselves "the best team in the mountains."
Sitting 24th, almost three minutes down on race leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), the American is still in with an outside chance of a second podium finish, after he finished third in 2007. But the 36-year-old didn't seem to be thinking of his individual ambitions as he claimed his team would come out fighting after what he admitted had been a challenging first week.
"Things haven't gone our way this first week so far, but in the last two days we've come together as a team," said Leipheimer. "We're riding far more attentively as a group, and I think we're strong.
"I would say we definitely have a team for the mountains," he continued. "Saxo Bank really showed they had a team for the other day [on the cobbles of stage three], but I predict we have the best team for the mountains, and we need to show that."
The American squad is unlikely to demonstrate what they're capable of on Saturday, though. "I don't know that tomorrow [with the uphill finish at Station des Rousses] is such a crucial day," said Leipheimer, "but the day after [to Morzine-Avoriaz] we'll definitely see some gaps."
With Lance Armstrong, Andreas Klöden and Janez Brajkovic all capable of animating the race in the mountains, RadioShack has - on paper at least - several different options. Not that Leipheimer was revealing what the strategy would be. "I can't tell you that, obviously. But we have a lot of guys who can climb and we have to take advantage of that."
Leipheimer, who crashed out of last year's Tour, suffering a broken wrist while sitting fourth overall, also remarked on the danger of the first week, saying that he had discussed the issue with a fellow veteran, Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), during Friday's stage, with the two concluding that the risks seem to be greater.
"Jens said exactly what I was thinking. He said, 'I think cycling's getting more and more dangerous all the time.'
"I've been thinking that this whole first week," said Leipheimer. "It's stressful, the speeds are high, the skills of the riders are improving all the time, nobody gives an inch, and every inch of the asphalt is taken. The sport is definitely evolving."
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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.