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Both Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Bjarne Riis and his BMC Racing Team equivalent Allan Peiper have expressed confidence in their respective GC leaders for this Tour de France, saying that each rider has done things well since the Critérium du Dauphiné to arrive in good shape.
The duo had contrasting fortunes in the French event; Contador looked set to win overall but was ambushed on the final stage by Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and had to be content with second overall.
Van Garderen was a little quieter, netting 13th in the race.
Both Riis and Peiper spoke to CyclingTips prior to the start of stage two, talking about their riders, what they had done in recent weeks and how they saw them at the start of this race.
Riis started by giving his thoughts on stage one. “I am very happy. I think we did well yesterday,” he said. “We kept our position in the front as we wanted. The boys were good, safe.”
Contador is very much the protected leader and the team’s GC hopes rest on his shoulders. He was below his best form last year but 2014 has gone very well thus far. He has placed either first or second in every stage race he has done thus far and is regarded as the biggest rival to defending champion Chris Froome.
He was the only rider able to stay with the Briton on the second stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and then dropped him on two mountain stages later in the race. That situation was difficult to assess, though, as Froome had crashed and said that the consequences from that were holding him back.
Still, it was clear that Contador was in very good shape. Riis said that things have gone to plan since then. “He has relaxed, did some good training also, and relaxed again. He has been passing the time to get ready for the Tour,” he said.
Contador was criticised publicly by the team’s main sponsor Oleg Tinkov last July; since then the Russian millionaire has taken over as the team owner. Riis has the role now of working directly with the riders.
“I give him my ideas and we worked well as a team around him,” he said, talking about his input into Contador. “I am pretty happy with what I have seen.
“He changed a lot, did some good training and he is well prepared.”
Contador said at the pre-race press conference that he feels he is at the same level as in 2009. If so, that should put him in the frame to really take on Froome and the Sky team, plus the other contenders in the race.
If he takes the Maillot Jaune, his team will have the task of defending that. Does Riis prefer if that situation arises later in the race?
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, “as long as we have it in Paris.”
As for Peiper, he will hope that his BMC Racing Team leader van Garderen can also challenge for yellow. He and the others on the team will clearly hope that his level has picked up since the Dauphiné, where he was a level below Contador and several others.
“I think he is in good form. He had a good Dauphiné,” he told CyclingTips. “It wasn’t quite what he expected because he was a little bit under his level after his fracture in his hip. But he assures us he is on top of his game. His team-mates are all around him and we are really confident he can do a great Tour de France.”
He said that van Garderen had spent time after the Dauphiné training at altitude and sharpening up. “But he also was doing some rest time, which is putting some petrol in the tank,” he stated.