Team Sky sports director Sean Yates has hailed the way the eight remaining members of the team bounced back from the disappointment of losing Bradley Wiggins to a broken collarbone yesterday, with Xabier Zandio slipping into an early break and Juan Antonio Flecha also attacking off the front of the peloton later on in today's Stage 8.
Wiggins, who depending on his recovery from yesterday’s crash may now ride the Vuelta which starts late next month in preparation for the world championship time trial in Copenhagen in September, had being lying in sixth place overall when yesterday’s crash ruled him out of the race.
The incident happened less than 24 hours after Edvald Boasson Hagen had claimed Team Sky’s maiden Tour de France victory in Lisieux, and with Geraint Thomas wearing the best young rider’s white jersey.
Both he and Boasson Hagen lost three minutes and their place on GC, and Thomas the lead in the white jersey competition, as they waited in vain for their leader to rejoin the race.
After Wiggins’ accident, Team Principal Dave Brailsford said that Sky would reconsider its priorities for the race, looking for stage wins and to get into attacks, and so it proved today.
The 34-year old Zandio, who has previously ridden the Tour five times, joined Team Sky over the close season from Caisse d’Epargne. He had been tasked with helping Wiggins in the mountain, but today got a chance to cut free following a reassessment of team priorities for the rest of the race.
“The plan today was to show our colours and I think we did that pretty well,” said Yates following the 189km stage to Super Besse-Sancy, won by Movistar’s Rui Costa.
“Yesterday was a hard one for the boys but it's not the end of the Tour for them so today was about getting back on track. We've refocused on different goals now because these guys are all world-class riders and they've got the chance to impress.
“We had Zandio in the initial break and then soon after Flecha jumped over to them with Vinokorov, who had his eye on the yellow jersey,” Yates continued. “Astana had worked hard to close the gap before those two attacked, and in the end it was a quite exciting finale.
“The pace was pretty hectic and it was a tough battle at the end,” added Yates. “Rigoberto [Uran] was up there in that first chase group, which was good, and it is still possible he could ride a good GC because there are a lot of mountains still to climb.
“He went down heavily in the crash with Bradley yesterday and found it hard going early on, but as the stage wore on his condition improved and he was able to battle through.”
Flecha, who finished the stage in 53rd place, 1 minute 23 behind the winner – Zandio would be a further 4 minutes or so back, said: “I was happy with the way things went today, and especially with the attitude of the team. Right from the start everyone was active and trying to get in the break.
“Xabi [Zandio] was the first one to get there and then there were some attacks on the second-category climb before the finish. I was feeling good and had already told the guys as much so I just sat in the wheel and followed the moves until mine stuck. I’m pleased with the way it went and the way I was able to perform.”
“The attitude of everybody is the main thing I’ll take from this stage though,” he continued. “It was hard last night after what had happened with Bradley but I think we responded well today and we will be looking to keep our spirits high now for the rest of the Tour.
“We are hitting the Massif Central tomorrow and our approach will be the same again – to get involved, represent the team well, and of course have some fun,” he concluded.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.