Kessiakoff determined to hold mountains jersey, sees Voeckler as biggest threat
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kessiakoff determined to hold mountains jersey, sees Voeckler as biggest threat

by VeloNation Press at 12:47 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Vinokourov aiming for farewell stage win, Brajkovic wants to secure top ten overall

Fredrik KessiakoffTour de France King of the Mountains Fredrik Kessiakoff is five stages away from his biggest result in the sport, and has said he will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the polka dot jersey until the end.

He has amassed 69 points in the mountains contest, and is currently 14 ahead of Pierre Rolland (Europcar), his closest rival, and 30 up on Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank).

Two very tough days remain in the Pyrenees and he knows that the jersey will be won or lost there. “There are three fearsome opponents – Rolland, Sorensen and Voeckler – chasing me for the jersey. That said, Rolland is doing well in the GC and I think that if he tries a long-distance escape it will be closed down by the other teams,” he said. “In my opinion, Voeckler will be the main challenger I will face to win the classification.

“Tomorrow’s stage from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon will be the more important of the two. In the early part of the stage we will climb the Col d’Aubisque and the Tourmalet –­ two Hors Categorie climbs where there will be lots of points up for grabs,” he said. “If I can manage to get up both of them in first place I will be giving myself every chance to win the jersey. I do have a plan B for Thursday’s stage, but I hope I can get a good result tomorrow.”

Meanwhile Astana team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov has reiterated his goal of taking a farewell stage win prior to retiring at the end of the season.

“I feel pretty good. Aside from the attack three days ago in the finish at Le Cap d’Agde, I have also tried to get in a few breaks,” he said on today’s rest day. “Now I have got three goals for the coming stages: to try and win one, and to help Brajkovic and Kessiakoff.

“In Kiserlovski we have lost an important guy for the team classification, so it will be even more important for me to manage to get in a good breakaway, as well as helping out Kessiakoff in his defence of the polka dot jersey,” he said. “If I don’t get the chances, I will be working for Brajkovic.”

The latter is the team’s designated GC rider and is currently sitting eighth overall, seven minutes 30 seconds behind race leader Bradley Wiggins.

He had a bad scare on Sunday when he punctured on the descent of the Mur de Péguère. He stopped, signalled to team-mate Robert Kiserlovski that he needed a wheel, then saw him hit from behind by Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma Quick Step), who couldn’t avoid him in time.

Kiserlovski had to withdraw from the race due to a broken collarbone, while Brajkovic was able to chase back on and retain his top ten position.

“I am having a good Tour; I was a bit unlucky in the Metz stage, where I lost more than two minutes due to the crashes, but it could have been worse,” the latter said. “There are still three stages to go that are crucial for the general classification: the two in the Pyrenees and Saturday’s time trial – all of which will be really tough.

“I will be looking to stay with the leaders and then, depending on how I feel, I will see what I can do. I hope to gain a couple of positions but anyway I will be happy if I can manage to defend eighth place.”

Although the team has performed well thus far thanks to Brajkovic and Kessiakoff, team manager Giuseppe Martinelli reiterates the importance of hitting the line first at some point between now and Paris.

“I am gutted that we have not won a stage so far, having played a major role in all of them. Anyone following the race on television probably does not see the unwavering commitment of our riders to try and get in the right break and win a stage, but I can assure you that it is the truth,” he said. “We have still got a few chances to grab that victory and we will give everything in the next stages to make it happen.”
 

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