Tour de France: Gilbert and Frison downplay talk of divisions at Omega Pharma-Lotto
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tour de France: Gilbert and Frison downplay talk of divisions at Omega Pharma-Lotto

by Ben Atkins at 8:55 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Team has settled its issues around the table after Greipel closed out of stage five sprint

philippe gilbertOmega Pharma-Lotto’s Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert and sports directory Herman Frison have both downplayed talk of divisions in the team in this year’s Tour de France, according to Sporza. On Tuesday’s stage to Mûr-de-Bretagne Gilbert appeared to chase down an attack from the team’s overall classification leader Jurgen Van Den Broeck, while on Wednesday’s stage to Cap Fréhel he was sprinting alongside the team’s fastman André Greipel.

“This is not a team,” an angry Greipel growled as he got into the Omega Pharma-Lotto bus after Wednesday’s stage.

“Gilbert did his own sprint and blocked that of André, who couldn’t sprint himself” Greipel’s compatriot and teammate Marcel Sieberg explained afterwards. “There will be some talking to do tonight.”

While he may have impeded his teammate at the finish, Gilbert’s close second place behind the German’s former HTC-Highroad teammate Mark Cavendish earned him the lead in the green jersey standings. At the start of Thursday’s stage, Gilbert denied that there was problem in the Belgian team, although he had heard that Greipel was angry at the previous day’s finish.

“That’s what I read,” he told Sporza. But I have no problem with Greipel, so I’m not [angry]. The team is experiencing some great moments at the Tour and we should enjoy it. This is a real exception.”

Gilbert has already taken one stage win, the first on the Mont des Alouettes, and there are several in the first week that are said to be almost made for his characteristics. Greipel however, is forced to try and win on the few stages that are suited to the sprinters; he could only manage ninth on stage three to Redon, and sixth on stage five is not the return he is looking for in his debut at the Tour.

Are three captains too many for one team?

It was always going to create some kind of problem: coming to the Tour with three captains, all with different – but slightly overlapping – aims. Herman Frison has the job of keeping all three of them happy, but he claims to have done so after the dust of stage five settled.

“We discussed the issue in the riders meeting,” he told Sporza. “We have great people and we never stop talking. When we left the meeting we even hugged; I think we have come out stronger.

“At the Tour it all gets magnified,” he explained. We simply have two riders [Gilbert and Greipel] who are able to win and sometimes it can go wrong. This is normal; that is the Tour. A sprint can go in any direction and, of course, it’s easy to say afterwards.”

While hopeful he can keep the egos and ambitions of his team leaders satisfied in the race, Frison defended the team’s decision to bring, and support, all three.

“Three is a lot of leader,” he admitted, “but we are a team and a united one. We have already won a stage and worn yellow and green; with Van Den Broeck we can go for the overall classification.

“We shouldn’t complain,” he added. “This is a luxury.”

While Gilbert was expected by some commentators to leave the Tour after the first week, after the stages that suit him are over, with the green jersey on his back it looks as though he might try to keep it to Paris.

“That might be a target,” he said. “I’ve looked at the standings and, for me, [BMC’s Cadel] Evans is the favourite. He will be getting points in the mountain stages, so he’ll be hard to beat to green.’


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