Long Breakaway Benefits Salvodelli and Discovery Team
For the first time since Stage 3, the team classification in the Tour de France became an issue today. At the start of the day, T-Mobile was leading the competition that records the finishing times for the top three finishers for each stage. As these times accumulate over the course of the Tour de France, teams that have riders consistently finishing near the front of each stage end up leading the classification. With two riders in a breakaway group more than 20 minutes ahead of the peloton, Discovery Channel forced T-Mobile to consider whether it was worth chasing to defend their team classification lead.
T-Mobile was leading the team classification because their top three riders, Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov, and Andreas Kloden consistently finished near the front on the hardest mountain stages. Even though Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, and Mickael Rasmussen finished ahead of them on most of those stages, those men rarely had any teammates who finished ahead of the top three T-Mobile riders. As a result, T-Mobile built up a lead of 19:28 over Discovery Channel.
The team classification is an important competition in the Tour de France because it illustrates the collective strength of your entire team. However, it is obviously less important than winning the yellow jersey. Lance Armstrong and the Discovery Channel team would like to win the team classification, but they won’t do anything that could potentially risk Lance’s yellow jersey.
Today’s breakaway just happened to offer the opportunity for Discovery Channel to move ahead of T-Mobile. With Paolo Salvodelli and Jose Luis Rubiera up the road, and only Oscar Sevilla representing T-Mobile in the breakaway group, the peloton had to finish less than 19 minutes behind in order for T-Mobile to hold on to their team classification lead.
During the stage, Mario Kummer, the director for T-Mobile, told the press he wasn’t going to send his team to the front to defend their lead. Even though they did spend a little time riding at the front of the peloton, it was clear they had other plans for the day. Like Discovery Channel, their primary concern is the overall position of their leading rider, Jan Ullrich. As a result, they waited until the final small climb of the day to attack. Ahead, Salvodelli had become the second Discovery Channel rider in four days to win a Tour de France stage.
The attacks that occurred within the main peloton just inside the “10km-to-go” banner were designed to catch team leaders sleeping. Two riders who weren’t paying enough attention, or who were sitting too far back in the peloton, were Floyd Landis (Phonak) and Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto). Everyone else in the top ten was in the front group with Armstrong and Ullrich when the peloton split. Though they chased hard, the group behind the split never caught back up and finished 20 seconds down on the Armstrong group at the finish. That small moment of inattention cost Landis seventh place and moved Vinokourov up to seventh overall.
Similar short attacks are just the type of action you should expect to see over the next two days, as the men in the top ten look for any possible opportunity to leapfrog over each other and closer to the final podium in Paris.
Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong’s personal coach and founder of Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS). His latest book, Chris Carmichael’s Fitness Cookbook, is now available and you can register for a chance to win a ride with the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at www.trainright.com.