Tour de France: Menchov makes big improvement on previous prologue performances
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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de France: Menchov makes big improvement on previous prologue performances

by VeloNation Press at 5:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Russian rider back on track after disappointing Romandie and quiet Dauphiné

Denis MenchovLike defending champion Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov had his best-ever prologue finish in the Tour de France today. His margin of improvement was rather more dramatic than Evans’, though; the Katusha rider scorched around the 6.4 kilometre Liège circuit to finish eighth, conceding just thirteen seconds to the runaway winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Nissan) and just six behind runner up Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

Prior to this, Menchov’s top result was a modest 27th in 2007.

“I had very good feelings today before the start, and during the race I felt in a good shape, even if it’s not my kind of race,” he said afterwards, assessing the performance. “I prefer longer time trials; that was too short to do something better. Moreover it was not a technical ITT, with just two difficult corners.”

Having taken fourth in the Vuelta a Andalucia earlier this year and then 11th in the Volta a Catalunya, things went quieter after that. He was only 100th in the prologue of the Tour de Romandie and pulled out the following day; then in the Critérium du Dauphiné, he was 42nd, nineteen minutes and nine seconds behind Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling).

Many wrote him off but the Russian didn’t panic. When Katusha's Tour de France team was announced on June 19th, he made it clear that he felt he could fight for the top prize. “The Tour de France is the only Grand Tour that I still hadn't won. It's not a secret that this year it was my main goal, it would be the crowning achievement of my career. That's why I look forward to the start.”

He then won the Russian time trial championship three days after that, getting in some pre-Tour TT practice and earning himself a distinctive jersey to wear in that discipline in the year ahead.

Assessing today’s performance, he came away feeling upbeat about his chances for the overall. “I’m not at my top condition, but the Tour de France is still long and after this performance I can say I’m more and more confident about the rest of the competition.”

Since 2006, Menchov has performed every second year in the Tour. He was fifth then, then third in 2008 and second in 2010 after Alberto Contador was removed from the result. If he’s superstitious, that sequence plus his strong performance in today’s prologue will boost his belief that he can successfully chase the Maillot Jaune. The next three weeks will show how close he can get.

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