Despite a few setbacks, Team Radioshack Leopard Trek is still in the mix for the prestigious Best Team Award, in fifth place and only 15 minutes, six seconds behind first place Saxo-Tinkoff.
The Bastille Day attack on the famed Mont Ventoux – “The Giant of Provence” – saw the entire Trek team launch a bold move on the lower slopes of Ventoux. The nine riders were powered by Markel Irizar, who rode incredibly hard to set up an attack by Jan Bakelants.
“This was my first time on Ventoux,” Irizar said. “I was in the break for most of the day and I felt like I had good legs. That’s why I went with Riblon in the beginning of the climb. The plan was to stay in front as long as possible in case Andy [Schleck] was to come up. That also kept our car in the front for as long as possible.
“Andy didn’t have his best day, but then Bakie was coming so I waited to pull him a little bit. I next waited for Max to come and gave him by bidon and then my day was over.”
On the lower slopes Bakelants attacked with Mikel Nieve, showing good early energy but finally having to drop back once Nairo Quintana joined the effort.
“I can never win on this climb against the big engines but am happy with my performance” Bakelants said. “The last 5k were hell as my sugar reserves were depleted. I should have eaten earlier. I’m happy I showed myself. In the end there was just a small group left with me so my speed must not have been too slow. This was my first time on Ventoux. I had no idea what to expect. The crowds were impressive.”
The best-placed team rider was Maxime Monfort in 20th, 13 minutes, 47 seconds off the yellow jersey. Andy Schleck had a very disappointing day and was 39th. In the overall rider standings, Schleck was 18th, 19 minutes, 14 seconds behind Froome.
“I don’t know what went wrong; I just wasn’t good enough to go with the best today,” Schleck said. “I thought I would be a lot better and actually it’s a stage that suits me well. I took care all day to conserve energy but in the end clearly I was not on a good day. When one door closes another opens, so perhaps I will be good on Alpe d’Huez. I am far enough down now that I should be let go in a breakaway. Now it is like this. I am disappointed but I won’t hang my head. I will keep my head up and fight for victory in another stage.”
Monday’s rest day passed quickly and the riders had to prepare for an even tougher challenge in the Alps with two trips up Alpe d’Huez and an individual time trial before the nighttime ride into Paris next Sunday. After such a grueling Tour, the Overall Team championship would be a tribute to the RadioShack Leopard team’s ability to work together despite the many changes coming up in 2014.