Omega Pharma team leader Jurgen Van den Broeck spent his rest day playing down the expectations of the Belgian press after moving into fourth place overall at the summit finish in Avoriaz. Fifteenth on his Tour debut last year after finishing seventh in the Giro the year before, the 27-year-old is well on course to achieve his goal of becoming the first Belgian rider to finish in the Tour’s top 10 since Axel Merckx back in 1998.
Van den Broeck is steadfastly refusing to be pressed into admitting to any goal more lofty than that, such as a place in the top five. Instead, he’s sticking to the policy that has served him well so far of taking each day as it comes and hoping that his renowned ability to recuperate will serve him well as the race progresses.
Speaking to La Dernière Heure, Van den Broeck admitted that his biggest fear is suffering a jour sans – a day without – that could lead to him tumbling down the standings. “Every one has days when they aren’t as good as usual on the Tour. I just hope mine comes on a flat stage – or on a rest day,” said Van den Broeck.
Asked if he has raised his sights given his fourth place on GC, just two seconds behind Alberto Contador and 1-03 down on race leader and former team-mate Cadel Evans, the Belgian insisted he had not. “My goal for this year has not changed and it will not change during this Tour: it is to finish in the top 10 in Paris. I know that more and more people are complimenting me – Schleck, Contador and others – and that gives real pleasure, but I want to keep my feet on the ground.”
Confident enough to attack late on in the stage to Avoriaz, Van den Broeck admitted he’d gained even more confidence while watching the stage later on TV. “I thought that I would really suffer on the climb to Avoriaz, but I saw the faces of the riders who were behind me and I realized that a lot of them were suffering too and were even at their limit.”
Asked what he thought about the form of the race favourites, Van den Broeck said: “Schleck and Contador are super, but I think Evans is not quite as good as them.”
Omega Pharma DS Roberto Damiani was full of praise for Van den Broeck, saying he has handled the pressure of team leadership perfectly. “He stays very calm and has a good relationship with his team-mates. Rather than keeping himself distant from the other guys as Evans did [last year], VDB prefers to have close links with them. That camaraderie comes across in the race. Our leader believes in his team and the team believe in its leader. That wasn’t the case last year.”
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