There were plenty of handshakes and hugs at the Tinkoff-Saxo bus after team leader Alberto Contador managed to gain a significant amount of time on several of his rivals in an incident-packed stage to Zelande. After a sluggish performance in the stage 1 time trial, Contador rebounded with a tactically astute performance that saw him gain 1:28 on Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and Thibaut Pinot.
“It was an incredible day,” Contador said. "There were moments when we had to push ourselves right to the limit. But it’s been a great day for us because we’ve ended up gaining some very useful time on some of our biggest rivals."
The two-time Tour winner thanked his teammates for their efforts after the peloton split as heavy rain and gusting winds hit the field with almost 60km remaining. “I take my hat off to them," he said. "On days like this you can gain more of an advantage than in the mountains."
However, Contador was critical of the lack of support from Sky and BMC in the front group. “I did talk to [Chris] Froome and [Tejay] van Garderen about this. You have to take full advantage of these situations. Although their teams did provide many relays, it wasn’t until very late on in the stage.”
Tinkoff director Sean Yates was a happy man too. “We knew that this would potentially be a hard day, especially for the GC contenders," Yates said. "We had the manpower to keep Alberto out of trouble, keep him to the front and contribute to building the time gap to the other favourites.
“We did have some bad luck when Matteo Tosatto and then Peter Sagan punctured. Luckily, Peter got back on and he very nearly made it a perfect day for us in the sprint.”
Yates explained what impact the weather had on the race. “It was very harsh and you could see which teams were up for it," he said. "At one point it got absolutely diabolical. It was tipping down with rain, you couldn’t see anything, the wind was gusting at 50 or 60 K's an hour. It was carnage. Add in the fact that there were lots of roundabouts, which meant lots of crashes."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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