After the unfortunate news Monday regarding Ivan Basso's cancer diagnosis, Tinkoff-Saxo welcomed the positive turn of events on stage 11 at the Tour de France. On the second day in the Pyrenees, Rafal Majka took a solo stage win, boosting the team’s morale, while Peter Sagan regained the green jersey from André Greipel (Lotto Soudal).
“He confirmed his talent from last year,” Michael Rogers told Cyclingnews, speaking of his teammate Majka. “It just goes to show that the young generation coming through, and particularly Rafa, are so strong in those mountains.”
The Polish rider made a name for himself in 2014 after garnering two solo stage wins and the mountains classification at the Tour, salvaging the race for the team after Contador had crashed out in the first week with a broken leg.
Winning a stage of his own last July, Rogers described this year's stage 11 as ordinary, believing that the attacks will come with a vengeance on Thursday.
“It was a tough stage, very hot conditions out there,” he said. “The pace was relatively calm from the start until we started the Tourmalet. Astana picked the pace up, and then it was racing all the way to the finish.”
Many riders spoke of the heat they endured, allowing the break to gain more than six minutes by the Col d’Aspin, the first decisive climb before hitting the Tourmalet.
“It almost seems as if everyone was a bit scared of tomorrow’s tremendous stage,” Rogers said. “Everyone is holding back a little bit and keeping things in reserve for tomorrow and the day’s coming.”
Alberto Contador finished safely alongside the yellow jersey of Chris Froome (Team Sky), maintaining his position on GC. With so many climbs still to face, the team is refusing to concede the yellow jersey just yet.
“If you analyse yesterday’s stage, Chris [Froome] had a particularly good stage and even Quintana, he didn’t have a great day or a bad day, he had an ordinary day. The rest were really struggling out there so it was interested to see today that nobody really went out there and grabbed the race by the horns, but I’m expecting it to really happen tomorrow.”
Contador currently sits in sixth place, 4:04 down from Froome, at the halfway point of the Tour. Besides the strong performance by Majka, the team is confident that Contador will have several teammates to help him try and dethrone Froome.
“We’ve got to think about what we’re going to do now,” the Australian added. “It’s all about trying to invent something. Obviously it’s not going to be easy, Chris and his team are in very good shape, he showed that yesterday. Richie and Geraint Thomas are very good in the mountains. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to try. We came to this Tour wanting to win.”
Many believe Froome has sealed the Tour win, after his dominating performance on La Pierre-Saint-Martin. Rogers believes several opportunities lie ahead for Contador, should he have the legs to try.
“If he is good he tries and I promise that he will,” Rogers said. “He’s got so much experience, he’s been in this position before and he’s come back. We’re realistic, it’s going to be difficult, but never say never.”
As road captain for the team, the 35-year-old understands difficult decisions lie ahead for the squad.
“The risk is chasing stage wins, going for the yellow jersey and the green jersey. There is a risk of doing them all badly. Now it’s important to really focus each day, one or the other, chase it, reach it and move on.
“Peter moved into the green jersey today, we’ll take a look at the sprint,” he said. “I think if Alberto is going to make a difference it will be tomorrow. Plateau de Beille is a long climb, it’s going to be hot and coming off the back of today’s stage I’m sure it’s going to be a tough day.”