With all eyes on the general classification leaders as the overall battle imploded on the undulated stage between Santander and Fuente Dé, Simon Clarke quietly but successfully defended his lead in the mountains classification. Clarke maintains a two point advantage over Joaquim Rodriguez.
“We did the calculations and knew what needed to happen for Simon to stay in the lead,” said Sports Director Neil Stephens. “We tried to get points over the first of two second category climbs today, but that’s exactly where [Alberto] Contador [Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank] made his move and blew the race apart. We missed out on the points there.”
Stephens called the 17th day of racing a hard-fought stage from start to finish.
“Right from the beginning until Contador attacked, it was attack after attack after attack,” he said. “The field was shattered after that. It was flat out racing from start to end, and everyone saw the amazing final results with Contador winning the stage and moving into the race lead. Most people suffered out there all day. This is unbelievable racing given we’re well into the third week.”
Firmly focused on the challenging task of keeping polka dots until Madrid, Clarke will get a bit of a reprieve tomorrow.
“There are no points for the mountains classification on Thursday or Friday,” explained Stephens. “It all depends on Saturday. We need to win at least two of the three category one climbs to take out the polka dot jersey. It is going to be extremely difficult. If we don’t put Simon in the breakaway on Saturday, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish.”
“The boys have done a fantastic job to help out Simon,” Stephens continued. “We’ll go in fighting and see what we can do.”