Another mountain stage went by and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) once again managed to gain time on the riders that are eyeing his current fifth place on the Tour de France general classification. On the other hand, the 27-year-old Belgian lost time on all the riders ahead of him overall during today's 15th stage, which makes the podium spot the Belgian home front is hoping for almost impossible. Van den Broeck doesn't care about what others are hoping for and keeps going for the top-10 he aimed at when the Tour de France started in Rotterdam.
During the dramatic stage over the Port de Balès the race exploded within four kilometres of the summit. Van den Broeck didn't join the Contador group but managed to keep up with Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) when he tried to get back to the front. It resulted in a bonus of 26 seconds over Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), who're ranked sixth and seventh in the GC.
After freshening up in the team bus Van den Broeck talked with the press and the Belgian explained that he was pleased with today's outcome. "I gained time on the riders right behind me so I succeeded in reaching the goals I set myself [for today]. With two mountain stages to go things are looking good. Hopefully it stays like that. I'm always careful, though. You never know what they're going to do tomorrow. In the Tour de France anything can happen. The Tour is three weeks at the limit and as long as we're not at the finish line on the Champs Elysées you can't be sure," Van den Broeck said.
Van den Broeck had a privileged view on the things that happened with Schleck and Contador on the final climb but the Belgian said he wasn't focused on the two protagonists. "I don't have to look at those guys. I have to watch the guys that are behind me. I'm not looking at second or third place," Van den Broeck said.
In trying to do so Van den Broeck cooperated with Schleck, as the duo both had interest in descending as fast as possible to the finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon. Van den Broeck also saw how Schleck reacted after crossing the finish line, when he seemed to be looking for a fight. The Belgian expects a fierce reaction on the bike from Schleck in one of the upcoming mountain stages. "I do expect it. I heard his reaction after the line. I heard enough. Maybe not tomorrow, it can happen in the stage after that, too," Van den Broeck said.
One day earlier, after the stage finish in Ax-3-Domaines, Van den Broeck wasn't giving the attending journalists an easy job. The Belgian rider responded to the questions with short answers, seemingly arrogant or at least annoyed with their presence. In his column in Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws the Belgian apologized, blaming that the hectic finale and arrival zone resulted in his impulsive behaviour.
"Just imagine, you did an extraordinary effort, you're searching for fresh air and then the media storms all over you. That's why I reacted impulsively. The collision of [Robbie] McEwen with a photographer in Guegnon was still fresh in my mind. I plead for a bit more calm and respect," Van den Broeck told Sporza. On Monday, the problems were solved as Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans's bodyguard Serge Borlée was around to get Van den Broeck in the car straight away, so he could use as much time as possible to recover... leaving behind the stressed out journalists with all their questions.
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