PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
As one of the race favourites, and winner of the best young rider's jersey at last year's Tour, losing over six minutes to the leaders on Thursday's stage to Pla-de-Beret was not what was expected of Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych.
But victory on Friday's stage between Luchon and Carcassonne went some way to making up for it, and has given his team at least something to take away from this Armstrong-less Tour.
"The whole team had a difficult day yesterday," the Ukrainian said. He said that there had been no team meeting following the stage, "because everyone was too tired, but we had one this morning, and [team manager] Johan Bruyneel told us that our Tour was beginning now and that we had to react".
"George [Hincapie] managed to get in the second breakaway after we hadn't got anyone in the early one, and then when that was caught, I managed to get away," Popovych said of the four-man break with Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Credit Agricole's Christophe Le Mevel. "At the end, I had to attack, as I didn't want to sprint against either Ballan or Freire."
Popovych's first attempt to get away shed Le Mevel from the group, ending his, and France's, hopes of a stage win on Bastille Day - the national holiday which brings flocks of extra spectators to the roadside.
"I'm very disappointed," Tour first-timer Le Mevel told reporters after the stage, having taken fourth place. "But the Tour's not finished yet, eh? There are some good stages still to come."
Instead, the day belonged to Popovych, and there are still plenty of stages left for Discovery to show themselves, too.
"I can't expect to do much in the overall if I ride as badly in the Alps as I did in the Pyrenees," Popovych admitted, who now lies 10th overall in the GC, 4-15 down on leader Floyd Landis. "But I know the La Toussuire stage from this year's Dauphine, so we'll see."
Despite being pleased with his stage win, the Ukrainian didn't rate it as his greatest victory.
"That was the under-23 world title [in Lisbon in 2001]," said Popovych. "That was more emotional, but this win today is a close second."