IT’S STARTING TO hot up.
Jurgen Van den Broeck snatched 32 seconds off Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins yesterday, and is counting on the race’s mountainous 11th stage to reduce his gap further today.
On the first day in the Alps Wiggins retained the yellow jersey as his formidable Sky team showed once again they will be hard to beat on the few big climbs remaining in the race.
Van den Broeck was one of the few few riders with deficits to Wiggins to test their resolve, and managed to jump on the wheel of Pierre Rolland when the Frenchman escaped on the Col du Grand Colombier. He went on to finish 32secs ahead of Wiggins and all the other race favourites, but is still 4min 48sec behind the Team Sky leader.
The Belgian knows he has a long way to go — and few opportunities left — but is counting on the 11th stage to try and chip away at his arrears again. Held over 148 km from Albertville to a hilltop finish at La Toussuire, it takes in the Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Mollard.
“I try to take every opportunity that’s left to attack,” said the Belgian. ”Some guys don’t realise there are only three big opportunities (days) left in the race.
“On [today]‘s stage I’ll try again. I think the Madeleine is one of the hardest climbs, and it could be difficult for Sky to control.”
At almost five minutes down, Van den Broeck is not Sky’s biggest concern despite his fourth place finish in 2010. Wiggins said after the stage that 2011 champion Cadel Evans, a two-time runner-up who is racing his eighth Tour and is second overall at 1:53, was the danger man.
“Without a doubt Cadel (Evans) is the one I watch all the time, but I don’t underestimate anyone,” said the Englishman.
In the absence of his own mountain helpers, Evans would benefit from help from fellow rivals that, in theory, would allow them to chip away at Sky’s resources by attacking one by one. Van den Broeck already has a plan, and added: “I’m hoping for more support in the coming days. If you just let Sky dictate the pace all the time we will never get past them.
“We have to try and isolate Wiggins and (Chris) Froome. I already saw today that I have some allies, but I’m not saying who they are,” he added.