Gerolsteiner chief Hans-Michael Holczer said tonight that Levi Leipheimer could "forget about the Tour podium" after his disastrous time trial in Rennes.
Leipheimer lost over five minutes to GC rival Floyd Landis on the 52km course and languishes in 62nd position on the overall standings tonight. Not surprisingly, Leipheimer didn't seem keen to dwell on his performance at the finish-line. "It was a totally off day," was the American's only comment before he disappeared into the doping control enclosure.
Leipheimer later admitted that it had been "the worst time trial of my life". Holczer said that he had expected Leipheimer to lose "two or three minutes" on today's largely flat Brittany course. "The time he lost will be impossible to get back," Holczer added. "We wasn't sick and there was no problem with the bike. He just couldn't speed up."
If there were mixed feelings in the Gerolsteiner camp, then today's race will have added to the mood of quiet confidence at Phonak. Landis said that he "didn't expect Levi to lose so much time" and guessed correctly that his compatriot had been the victim of an "off day". "I'm kinda' pleased with the way it went for me, although I think that the mountains will give us a better indication," Landis said of his own performance. "My goal is to win the Tour... I'm not predicting that I will but I think that I can, and I don't mind waiting until the very last day to do it."
The two British riders in the race, Bradley Wiggins and David Millar, also enjoyed mixed fortunes. Wiggins was happy with a 28th-place finish which concludes a good first week in his debut Tour. "I don't usually go well in long time trials but I pushed on and it went pretty well," the Cofidis man said. "I haven't had a single bad moment yet and I seem to be getting better every day."
The Londoner added that he hopes to get into more breaks like the one which took him within ten kilometers of a Tour stage win on Wednesday.
Millar reacted to finishing 38th today in much the same way that he had greeted his 17th place in last week's prologue. "I underestimated the course," the Scot, still a respectable 25th on GC (@ 03'38" from Gonchar), commented. "I was aiming for the top five so I'm a bit disappointed. I just lack strength at the moment - the strength that you can only get from racing. I'm recovering pretty well."
Another rider who seemed underwhelmed by his own performance was Discovery Channel's Paolo Savoldelli. The Italian was the best finisher of Discovery's "big three" - 19th compared to George Hincapie's 24th and Yaroslaw Popovych's 32nd - but still said that he was far from satisfied with his ride.
"I thought that I'd do better," the two-time Giro winner commented. "I could tell that it wasn't going to be a good day just by looking at my heart-rate monitor. I couldn't accelerate out of the little climbs."