Sunday, 3 July 2011

Contador loses more time as Garmin-Cervelo Time Trial Hushovd into yellow

The tension amongst the top ranked finishers from stage one's teams was almost palatable. Overnight, journalists and fans speculated on the possibility of Sky riding the young Geraint Thomas into yellow during today's Team Time Trial. Others quietly considered the possibilty that winner of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, had already lost his bid to defend his title after crashing in the final 10km of the opening stage of this years Tour. Whisperings of karma and justice added to the drama for a rider coming into this years Tour dogged by controversy relating to a failed drugs test from the 2010 Tour on which the Court of Arbitration for Sport have yet to rule on.

At the start of the day, Contador knew his team would have to pull off something no short of a miracle to ensure that the time gaps were not too disastrous. With Garmin-Cerevelo, Sky and BMC all looking to take the stage and put a man in yellow, the pressure was on. Following last years rivalry and the now infamous "Chaingate" scandal, it was clear Leopard Trek would also want to gain as much time as possible over the talented Spaniard.

Setting an impressive time of 24:48, the Garmin-Cervelo squad had everyone on the edge of their seats as they waited for Sky to come down the ramp. Up by just a second at the first time check, Sky maintained the tense atmosphere. However as they hit the second time check they were 4 seconds down on their major rival for yellow. Unable to make up this time, the rider they affectionately call "G" missed out on the Golden Fleece, consoled by retaining his white jersey for stage 3.

The only rider to succumb to the fast paced and technical first half of the stage was Bernie Eisel of HTC-Highroad. Disrupting their rhythm, the team held on to finish in 5th place; a massive effort by the number 1 ranked team in the world.

Tomorrow the peloton heads out of the Vendée and into Brittany, crossing the Loire via the Saint-Nazaire bridge for stage 3. If the peloton can avoid high winds that will threaten eschalons the sprinters will be looking to utilise this opportunity for a bunch sprint on a fairly flat finish. However some may be looking to take advantage of these winds to break up the main field, so Contador will need to keep his focus to avoid losing even more time as he struggles to come back from 75th place overall.

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