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Saunier Duval relaxes after stunning first week

Leonardo Piepoli wins ahead of team-mate Juan Jose Cobo, demonstrating the strength of Saunier Duval-Scott in the mountains

Leonardo Piepoli wins ahead of team-mate Juan Jose Cobo, demonstrating the strength of Saunier Duval-Scott in the mountains (Image credit: AFP)

With three stage wins in five days (two for Riccò and one for Piepoli), Saunier Duval-Scott had a quiet, relaxing rest day. The team stayed in the Novotel Pau Lescar Hotel. The leaders of the Spanish squad held a press conference, where they discussed the first part of this year's Tour de France and anticipated the second half.

Leonardo Piepoli and Rubens Bertogliati - who's back has been hurting since he crashed in stage 2 to Saint Brieuc- took the day off. Riccardo Riccò, on the other hand, had a short training session, using the rollers at the hotel. The other riders went riding for two hours with paralympic champion Javier Otxoa, who was honoured by the Tour's organisers for his stage win in Hautacam.

Riccò explained why he wasn't as dominating in the second mountain stage. "Yesterday, I paid the price for my attack the day before. I had a bad moment, but I kept the pace and eventually managed to be in the group of favourites. Evans is one of the leaders in this race; he's been training for the Tour and it shows. But there's no clear pattern anyway. Personally, I'll go on taking one day at a time."

The Italian climber enjoyed the relaxed approach for his Tour. "Not being under pressure, as I was in the Giro, where I had to be in the lead in all the stages, has been good. I've been more relaxed in France so far and the results have been excellent. The team put up a great show in the last two stages, and I'll put in as many attacks as my legs allow me to."

Riccò's team-mate Juan José Cobo has his sight on the overall. "I'm glad I've gone back to my original goal, being among the top ten, after a bad week resulting from my lousy performance in the time-trial. I've improved my climbing skills, and it shows here. After what we did yesterday [stage 10], I could even dream of being among the top five, but it's better not to get ahead of ourselves. Taking one day at a time has been a good strategy so far. It's too early to think of the final podium."

Cobo revealed where he would like to claim a victory. "I don't care where. Any stage. Riccardo says he wants to win in L'Alpe-d'Huez, so let's leave stage 17 to him. Any other will do for me: flat, hilly, time-trial, it's the same."

And Leonardo Piepoli had quite some unusual feelings for a stage winner in the early part of the race. "Yesterday I didn't have a perfect day. In the early slopes I was only thinking of being among the ten best riders. But then I began to feel better. I didn't think the attack with Schleck would be the good one as it was the first one, but sometimes you're wrong in your perceptions. This victory is very dear to me. Winning in this team's outfit and in a one-two with Cobo, who's been with me since the beginning of Saunier Duval, is just great. The team's key to success is a good atmosphere. Being part of a small team involves extra motivation, and having been together for so long is of great emotional help."

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