With three riders within touching distance of the yellow jersey, Brian Nygaard and his team of sports directors at Leopard Trek will have to think long and hard about how they approach tomorrow's key stage of the Tour de France to Super-Besse.
Stage 8 offers the first real look at the GC contenders for the Tour, with a finishing climb that is predicted to split up the majority of the peloton. With Fränk Schleck 4 seconds down, and brother Andy and Jakob Fuglsang a further 8 seconds back, Leopard Trek head into the stage with more options than any of their rivals.
"We have three guys who are within touching distance. I'm not sure there will be a massive selection and there's so much hard climbing in the final week so they'll want to save their legs but this first week has been a lot harder than expected," Nygaard told Cyclingnews.
However, there's no underestimating what the maillot jaune would do for Nygaard's riders in the team's inaugural Tour de France. The team went through the spring Classics campaign without victories in the monuments, and Nygaard, a former press officer no less, will be well aware of the media exposure his team would receive by leading the world's biggest cycling race, even with more than two weeks remaining.
"I'd be absolutely thrilled to take yellow, of course," Nygaard said at the team bus after stage 7.
"But if you look at the Pyrenees, you don't want to keep it at any price because you don't want to use up all your guys in those really hard stages. No one here would say no to the yellow jersey, it's just about how much energy you want to use up in getting it and then keeping it."
"The scenario tomorrow will be that the GC teams will want to stay up there but no one will want to control it yet. I don't think Garmin will want to have their guys on the front all day. A break will probably go, but the GC guys will take a good look at each other. The final isn't super difficult so I don't think it will be a give a complete assessment of the GC guys."
Wiggins will be missed
Before embarking on the Leopard project, Nygaard was the chief communications officer at Sky and worked with Bradley Wiggins and Sky's other riders for the first part of 2010. With the British star now out of the race, Nygaard was quick to pass on his sympathy to his former employers.
"Even as a competitor I can say that I was super curious to see how far he could take things after his win at the Dauphiné. It's a pity we won't be able to see that now,” Nygaard said.
"It's impossible not to feel sympathy for Sky today because I know exactly how much work they've put in and how hard Wiggins had trained to get here. I feel extremely sorry for them."
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