Leopold König is on track for a top-ten overall classification finish in his debut Tour de France after the first of the Pyrenean stages of 2014. The NetApp-Endura rider proved in the Alps that he can climb with the top GC riders at the Tour and now sits seventh overall with two mountainous stages to come.
Despite losing three minutes on stage 8 waiting for a new bike and more time on the wet cobbles of stage 5, König is just seven seconds off the sixth place of Tejay van Garderen (BMC).
"We're moving up, bit by bit! Hats off to Leo – this was another very strong race from him," sports director Enrico Poitschke said. "We really didn't think there would be an attack on the final climb. Our plan was to ride this stage with the aim of saving Leo's strength and to get him a very good position for the final ascent so that he could be up among the favorites.
Despite losing contact in the final moments of the climb over the Port de Balès, a fast descent by König saw him catch the yellow jersey of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) which also contained the majority of the top GC riders in the race. König rolled over the line one place behind Nibali in 21st place as the best placed finisher for the team.
"He and the entire team managed to admirably put this into practice," Poitschke added. "Leo was able to keep pace with the best and has moved up further in the overall rankings, which makes us even more optimistic now for the coming two days."
In his only previous grand tour, last year's Vuelta a España, König finished ninth overall and won stage 8 to Alto de Penas Blancas.