The first big test of the Tour de France for the yellow jersey contenders may already be putting the fear of God into Carlos Sastre.
But his manager at the CSC team, Denmark‘s 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, believes they will make up any time shortfall for their yellow jersey contender once the peloton heads steadily up into the mountains in the coming days.
Tuesday’s time trial around Cholet is likely to see the maillot jaune switch hands. Held on a rolling course which is likely to favour the big specialists, the climbers – even those who are good in the race against the clock, like Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans – will struggle to dominate.
Britain‘s David Millar is quietly building hopes of ending his eight-year wait to once more pull on the coveted jersey, and is being pitted against CSC’s reigning world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.
For Riis, the most important thing is to make sure Sastre – for whom the time trial is a weak point – limits his losses. Riis believes Tuesday’s race against the clock will leave some yellow jersey favourites with a major disadvantage.
“I think there will be between one and two minutes, definitely, more towards two minutes than one minute. I think they expect to lose time,” said the Dane, who admits that CSC’s fight for the big prize will be almost exclusively fought in the mountains.
“If we want to win the Tour we have to make the difference in the mountains because we know we will lose time in the time trials. But if Valverde and Evans and these guys want to win the Tour they absolutely have to make the difference in the time trials.”
Sastre’s teammate Stuart O’Grady agreed, but said he hoped Sastre would limit the damage.
“It should be a bit of a blow-out for the climbers, I know Carlos is not really looking forward to it,” he said, admitting it would be a bonus if the Spaniard, whom he is chaperoning throughout the race, lost less than a minute and a half.
“Anything under that he would be pretty happy with that, I’d say.”