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Liberty Seguros had their best result of the Tour so far yesterday when Angel Vicioso finished third into Digne behind Frenchman David Moncouti and Sandy Casar. Team manager Manolo Saiz has generally been pleased with the performance of his riders, but states in this morning's AS that "the only rider who has failed is [Roberto] Heras".
Currently lying 38th at 28-46, Heras has once again failed to live up to his and everyone else's expectations. "The rest of the team are doing the work they need to," says Saiz, before adding: "If Heras had finished at the front on the Courchevel stage we would have been talking about a great stage for our team, but it didn't turn out like that."
With Joseba Beloki showing signs of a return to form but clearly still some way short of his best, Liberty's role as team leader has fallen to German Jorg Jaksche, who was the last rider to be caught by Lance Armstrong and the other frontrunners on the climb to Courchevel and now lies 13th overall, and has genuine hopes of a top 10 finish.
But three-time Vuelta winner Heras remains a frustration for Saiz. "Our leader is not on his best form and that's all there is to say. We can't do anything else but hope and see if he recuperates in the Pyrenees, especially now that the weather is getting better," said Saiz.
- There was disagreement within the Davitamon-Lotto management team towards the end of yesterday's stage to Digne. Although the Belgian outfit had a clearly strong Axel Merckx in the lead break, a decision was taken for the rest of the team to lead the chase on the front of the peloton in an apparent attempt to get Robbie McEwen up to the break, that also contained his green jersey rivals Thor Hushovd and Stuart O'Grady.
Herman Frison, who was in the Davitamon car behind Merckx, felt that the Belgian should be given his chance to go for the stage win. However, Marc Sergeant, in the team car behind the main peloton, felt the priority was McEwen's now renewed hopes of the green jersey following Tom Boonen's withdrawal.
Sergeant decided that McEwen's interests were more important, telling La Dernire Heure: "We got the team to ride not with the aim of getting up to the breakaways but to put pressure on Hushovd and O'Grady so that they would have to contribute more to the work in the break, and consequently hoping that they would expend a bit more energy. It was McEwen who wanted this tactic. At the end of the stage we then asked Axel to attack so that the two sprinters were dropped and could not compete for the stage win. That worked out because they were both dropped."
In the end, the tactic worked out fairly well, as Hushovd took 14 points on the stage to McEwen's 11 (he was also second in an intermediate sprint), while O'Grady only matched McEwen's total despite being in a break for most of the day.
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