Sunday, July 08, 2012

Samu cracks on first test

Samu showed he's still some way off top shape by ceding a minute and a half in today's first summit finish in the Tour de France.

The 199km trek from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles created bigger gaps between the GC candidates than was expected, and Samu was surprisingly off-colour from the first moment. Despite being aided by Gorka Izagirre and Egoi Martínez in the lead-up to the climb, he was poorly placed right from the start and quickly had to let go. As that wasn't enough of a hit, Samu, for once, appeared to misjudge his effort, being caught by numerous riders inside the final three clicks as he struggled for any sort of rhythm. Normally the face of calm and consistency in the mountains, Samu looked everything but his normal self as he lost a full 1:31 to winner Froome, 1:29 to yellow jersey Wiggins and Evans, and plenty of time to the likes of Nibali, Menchov, Zubeldia, Brajkovic, Rolland and Taaramae. He's now ranked 12th overall at 2:02, so while it's no terminal hit, today's ride has put him firmly on the back foot.

"This was not one of my best days", he admitted post-stage when talking to "Sky were so strong. They made an infernal rhythm on an explosive climb, so I preferred to decide to limit my losses. I should have lost 30 seconds, but I wasn't at my best and ceded more. It's not worth thinking about though, so I'm looking to the future. But we have to stay calm - there's a lot of racing left. Last year I reached the mountains with a bigger deficit than the time I lost today."

On a positive side, Gorka Izagirre had a phenomenal ride to 18th, just eight seconds behind his captain and ahead the likes of Valverde, Gesink, Mollema, Vanendert and Van den Broeck. With Astarloza and Txurruka out of the race though, and Verdugo continuously flirting with abandonment, he's in for some tough days of domestique duty ahead. Verdugo, ever brave, continues to soldier on amid great pain, coming in dead last along with Tyler Farrar more than 20 minutes in arrears.

With today's setback, it'll be intriguing to see what tactics the team will deploy on tomorrow's hilly ride to Porrentruy. While Samu's in deep need of assistance, sending a guy like Izagirre up the road might provide the team with a decent chance of grabbing a stage win.

Stage seven results:
  • (1, Chris Froome (Sky), 4:58:35)
  • 16, Samuel Sánchez, 1:31
  • 18, Gorka Izagirre, 1:39
  • 58, Egoi Martínez, 4:12
  • 67, Jorge Azanza, 5:08
  • 115, Rubén Pérez, 11:00
  • 152, Pablo Urtasun, 14:21
  • 181, Gorka Verdugo, 20:29

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