The plan was to win to successive Grand Tours but that’s been amended for Alberto Contador and his team. With three stages to go, the Spaniard’s quest is to now try and put himself in a podium position at the Tour. RIDE caught up with Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Sean Yates before the 19th stage… here is a transcript of that exchange.
RIDE: I’m with Sean Yates before stage 19. Every day we see a similar theme: some guys going up the road, Alberto has a go – and he can’t seem to get much more than 50 metres… what’s it going to take to crack it?
Sean Yates: “I think today is the hardest day so far, metres wise: 60km of climbing or thereabouts and today is The Day. You never know when they’re going to crack but there’s a very good chance of that happening today if we apply the right kind of pressure.
“If we can change the circumstances to how we want it, then something can happen.
“Obviously Alberto always tries and what are you going to do: sit on the wheel and follow? Or try something?
“Okay, if you try something it might not work but we have scenarios where we have put guys in breaks that could potentially wait – and this, that, and the other – but it hasn’t quite panned out. On top of that, he went and crashed on the descent of the col d’Allos which wasn’t the plan otherwise he’d be much closer to Valverde for the podium which is our goal at the moment for Contador.
“Obviously it’s a hard stage today and there are going to be a lot of guys hating life, for sure, including not only sprinters and non-climbers.”
We see fairly obvious tactics of Kreuziger, Rogers, Majka all pacing Alberto to the base of the climb are we going to see the same today?
“Yes, there should’ve be two guys up the front yesterday but they weren’t physically able to hold that group on the Glandon [in stage 18] but the scenario of what could have been had they been there would have been that they’d have waited at the top. And then, when Alberto attacked they could have assisted him to put some more pressure on Valverde and Froome. But they weren’t able to hold. They were in the race-winning break but they weren’t able to hold the group on the Glandon.
“Every single day bar none the guys have done what we asked; they’ve been in the breaks, they’ve gone for the sprints – physically they’ve done everything we wanted them to do and today I’m sure they’ll try again.
“Obviously it’s kind of easy looking from the outside but when you’re in the race and see how hard these guys are working – and you see the state of Mick Rogers when he’s been trying to get into 20 breakaways and he can hardly talk – that you realise it’s a hard race, it’s hard sport!”
How helpful is it that you and Michael [Rogers] have worked in the Sky system and understand it? Are there any lessons that you’ve taken from your time there and applied at Tinkoff-Saxo?
“Ah, nah. Ultimately if you don’t have the tools you can’t perform the tasks. Sky obviously has a very strong team here and their directeur sportif, ‘Nico’ Portal, is very good and he’s getting better all the time.
“If you’re not physically stronger than your rivals you have a hard time… you can upset the applecart by trying something and putting them under pressure by risking everything, really, or you can just follow the train which everyone did in 2012, you know?
“Alberto doesn’t like to follow the train.
“Okay, if he was in third on GC he might do but at the moment he’s not so we need to try something.”
You’ve worked with Chris and Geraint. Can you give me a quick summary of them this year and what you think of their efforts?
“Obviously Geraint is a phenomenon. He was always a pleasure to work with, he’s the simplest guy – you tell him to do ‘this’ and he does it. Physically he’s a one-of-a-kind: he’s ridden a 3:52 in a team pursuit and he’s currently fourth in the Tour with three days to go. What can you say about that? He’s a machine! Unbelievable.
“And obviously Chris is a phenomenal athlete. There’s a lot of conjuncture about his performances and this, that and the other but ultimately he’s going up hills faster than everyone else, he’s got a strong team around him, and he’s obviously maturing and learning as he goes. To be in a position where you are leading the race and being the centre of the cycling universe, it takes some adapting to and obviously the less effort it takes adapting, then the more he can concentrate on doing what he has to do which is ride the bike.”
– By Rob Arnold