While the top favourites of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans (BMC) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky), are receiving most of the media attention, there is one other general classification rider though who’s quietly avoiding too much attention. That man is Denis Menchov (Katusha), not coincidentally nicknamed the silent assassin, he is only six seconds down on second placed Wiggins in the standings.
At the age of 34, Menchov is participating in his tenth Tour de France and he doesn’t have many years left to achieve his goal of becoming the first Russian rider to win the Tour. Back in 2010 he came the closest to his goal when he finished third, and later second after the disqualification of winner Alberto Contador. In 2008 he finished fourth, just behind the later-disqualified Bernhard Kohl.
Before the start of stage 2, Menchov talked with Cyclingnews about his good start and his ambitions further up in the race. Menchov finished the stage in the first main group with all the GC contenders, and he was very happy with his presence in the group. "Of course during the first days it’s important not to have problems, not to lose time," Menchov said. "I started the last climb a little bit too far. I had to sprint a little bit. Of course it cost energy but finally it was OK."
Usually Menchov is a man who loses time in a prologue, but in Liège he managed to keep his time loss to the minimum and that has boosted his confidence. "It means that I’m OK and that’s the most important," Menchov said. Back in May he started using a new time trial bike from Canyon, and the Russian was pleased with his new toy. "It’s a good bike. It’s on the level with the best. I have confidence in the material and that’s already a lot."
Regarding the outcome of the race Menchov was cautious to predict what could happen. "It’s a little bit too early to say. It’s really long. It’s still very far to the finish."
This year’s course of the Tour de France features many time trial kilometres and the climbs lie mainly in the Pyrenees, which are his favourite mountains. "It’s not perfect but it’s OK. It’s like that for everybody."