Tour de France: Vaughters has fingers crossed for improved luck for Garmin-Transitions
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour de France: Vaughters has fingers crossed for improved luck for Garmin-Transitions

by Conal Andrews at 2:41 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France, Injury
 
Team hoping for a better end to the race after squad impacted by crashes

Christian Vande VeldeGarmin Transitions general manager Jonathan Vaughters is hoping for a change of fortune in the days ahead, knowing that his team has seven more stages to turn its Tour de France around.

The squad has suffered rotten luck this edition, with Christian Vande Velde, Tyler Farrar, Robbie Hunter and David Millar all breaking bones in crashes. Millar is the only one to remain in the race, but is riding at a level below his usual standard.

Vande Velde was a non-starter on stage three, while Hunter did not start stage eleven and Farrar pulled out yesterday.

“It has been a frustrating Tour for us, without a doubt,” Vaughters admitted to VeloNation. “It all ties back in to that crash in Spa…we kind of held it together with duct tape and adrenaline for a little while, but eventually that wears off.”

Farrar broke a bone in his hand but still managed to clock up some good results before he retired. He netted second and third on stages, and might well have grabbed a win had his arm not prevented him pulling properly on the bars. Julian Dean normally acts as his leadout, but stepped into the gap on stage four when he was second. He took a solid sixth place today.

Part of the team’s strategy in the days ahead will be to try to help Ryder Hesjedal to finish as high as possible. He was away for much of yesterday’s stage, but was caught on the final climb of the Col de Mende and dropped from twelfth to thirteenth overall.

Vaughters said that Hesjedal’s characteristics mean that he will continue to attack when he gets the chance. “He is not a pure climber nor a pure time trialist, so if he wants to sneak his way into the top ten, he has got to look for opportunities like that,” he said. “And if he wants a stage win, he has also got to look for opportunities like that. Otherwise he is not going to win a stage, he is not going to be in the top ten unless he finds opportunities. That is just the way he is – he is a very strong rider, he is just not a specialist.”

Of the seven stages which remain, two are summit finishes (tomorrow’s leg to Ax 3 Domaines and Thursday’s race to the Tourmalet), two have tough mountains but a descent to the line (stage 15 on Monday and stage 16 on Tuesday), one is an individual time trial (Bordeaux – Pauillac) and two are flat (stages 18 and 20, to Bordeaux and Paris respectively).

Vaughters said that the team hadn’t identified specific stages to go for. “I think the high mountains stages are suited for two people,” he laughed, referring to Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador. “But you never really know when your luck is going to change and go your direction. Of course, in the Bordeaux time trial, we have a couple of guys who can go pretty fast. But is there any particular stage we are targeting for a stage win? No, because at this point in time we don’t have Tyler and don’t have Christian, and we are just going to have to rely on a bit of luck, quite frankly.”

The team has picked up stage wins in the Vuelta and Giro d’Italia, but has yet to triumph in the Tour. It does have two fourth place finishes in the race, namely Vande Velde in 2008 and Wiggins in 2009, and hopes to do something big before Paris.

Given that its unlikely Hesjedal can net a top four finish, is a stage win necessary? “That is a tough question,” Vaughters answered. “Obviously it has been a disappointing Tour de France. I think our guys have held together incredibly well, considering what has happened to us. But is a stage win crucial? I don’t know, we have never won a stage…”

Whatever happens, the season continues after the end of the race, of course. Vaughters confirmed that Tom Danielson will be riding the Vuelta, although he said that the rider is ‘enigmatic’ and that he has ‘stopped trying to predict what he is or isn’t going to do.’”

Another who could in theory take part is Vande Velde; if he needs a motivation to psyche him up after a disappointing Tour, he can use the fact that a US rider has never won the Spanish tour.

However it’s not yet certain if he will do the race. Vaughters said recently that Vande Velde needs to take some time off and decide what he wants to do; one possible interpretation from that statement was that perhaps the rider was thinking of retiring.

His team manager dismisses that, though. “No, no, no, no, it isn’t that,” he answered, when asked if Vande Velde was considering hanging up his wheels. “He has been pushing through injury after crash, injury after crash, and basically he needs to stop and just let it go for a while, then come back. Getting another surgery and another this, another that – eventually the poor guy has got to just actually heal, and I don’t think he has had an opportunity to do that.

“As for the Vuelta, if it will be too soon for him, we will see. I don’t know, that is an open question.”

Before then, it’s all about the Tour. The team has had more bad luck than most, and few would complain if fortunes turn around for them in the days ahead.

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