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"After, in the last climb, we saw a few things: that Nibali was strong, also Valverde; we saw Richie Porte suffering, and Fränk and I, we have gone day by day, and now we see that we are back in the race."

Photo: Sirotti








18.07.2014 @ 19:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Going into today's first Tour de France stage in the Alps, Haimar Zubeldia and Frank Schleck had flown under the radar. However, the Trek pair produced a surprisingly good performance and now claim to be back in the race.


After 12 arduous stages that included rain, a stage of wet cobblestones, three punishing days in the Vosges Mountains, and now searing heat, the Tour de France hit the high mountains, and the first hors catégorie climb Friday.


It was a fatigued peloton that began the 197.5-kilometer stage 13 from Saint-Étienne to the 18-kilometer long summit finish of Chamrousse, resulting in a few big changes to the general classification, but not to the yellow jersey: Vincenzo Nibali strengthened his lead with a formidable win, while previously second overall Richie Porte (Team sky) plummeted out of the top 10. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) slotted into the second spot with a fourth place on the stage.


“Fränk and myself have experience and I think it showed today," Zubeldia said. "We are doing better every day, but we knew that these hard days were still coming. It was our best day - we were in the race.


"In a long climb you can have many bad moments, but with experience you know that if you keep fighting, you can pass by them, recover a little, and try again. You must just keep suffering and not give in.


"When I am climbing I look at my SRM for how many kilometers are left, but I cover the wattage and heart rate. Seeing these is not always good for the head.”


The beginning of the long mountain climbs meant it was time for the cream to rise to the top.  For Trek Factory Racing the first high mountain test passed magnificently: over the first of two consecutive long mountain ascents Fränk Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia emerged with the top contenders, and when the lead group exploded on the final climb, both continued strong and finished with a five-man group that arrived for 9th place.


“It was a long stage and it again started very fast," Zubeldia said. "Into the second to last climb the peloton was in one line, and we went into it full gas. It was hard and the selection was made here.


"After, in the last climb, we saw a few things: that Nibali was strong, also Valverde; we saw Richie Porte suffering, and Fränk and I, we have gone day by day, and now we see that we are back in the race."


With their high finishes today Haimar Zubeldia moved into 14th overall (+10’10”) and Fränk Schleck climbed to 17th (+ 14’).


Saturday’s stage 14 continues in the high mountains, followed by a flat stage on Sunday. Monday will see the second and last rest day before the final decisive week unfolds.


“I think overall it was quite good for us today," sport director Kim Andersen said. "We know Haimar can do this kind of performance, we have seen it every year. And Fränk is coming back very well – he still misses a little bit to be in the very top. It’s possible still, if we have a really, really good day in some of the mountains, to be up in the GC.


"We have to remember that today was only the first mountain stage, and tomorrow is another hard day. There is much that can happen yet, especially in the last week.”



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