Juan José Haedo’s victory Tuesday at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré was a very big deal to the Argentine sprinter, perhaps the biggest win of his four years racing in Europe, but when asked how much space his victory will garner in papers back home, Haedo squeezed his thumb and fore-finger together.
“This much,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe.”
With the World Cup beginning this weekend in South Africa, soccer-crazed Argentina might not take much notice of Haedo’s win in the 177km, four-climb stage from Annonay to Bourg-Saint-Andéol.
But for Haedo, it was an important milestone and his fourth win in 2010, all victories coming in important races.
“I ride for a team that doesn’t have a lead-out. We have a GC team and a classics team, so the team picked me to race for them because I can win sprints without a big lead-out train,” he said. “That’s what I did today. You have to read the race, to see who’s strong, and sometimes you have the luck and win.”
Alberto Contador (Astana) finished safely in the bunch to retain his two-second margin over Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) in the overall standings, where there were no major shakeups.
“Another day in the lead, but it’s really because of race circumstances,” Contador said. “It was a very fast stage, but there was a bit of tension in the peloton, because we were never quite sure which way the wind was blowing.”
Argentine ace scores win
Haedo, 29, joined Saxo Bank as a free-agent sprinter, someone who can jump wheels and hunt out victories of opportunity.
He’s had good success, picking up wins both in Europe and the United States since becoming the first sprinter signed by Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis. This year, he won a stage at the Volta a Catalunya as well as victories at the Mumbai Cyclothon and Rund um Koln.
When there is a big train — such as last month’s Tour of California where he twice finished second — Haedo can often get out-gunned.
Tuesday’s wild finale was perfect for Haedo’s quick reflexes. His experience racing the Keirin on the track helps. With a five-man breakaway reeled in, Team Sky and Cervélo tried to set up their men, but it was Haedo’s cagey move in the final 100 meters that delivered victory.
With the likes of the Schleck brothers bucking for the overall at the Tour de France, Haedo knows he’s not going to the Tour. And he knows that until he wins a stage in the Tour, newspapers back in Argentina might not take much notice.
“Cycling is not a big sport in Argentina. When you win a stage in the Tour de France, then it becomes important. Maybe if some young rider gets inspired by the win today, that’s enough for me,” he said. “I won’t be racing the Tour this year. We have the Schleck brothers who are going for the victory, so we are bringing the entire team to help them.”
Break almost works
The day was not easy, with strong winds howling down the Rhone Valley and a bumpy, 177km stage featuring four climbs, including two second-category climbs sandwiched together at 75km and 52.5km to go, respectively.
Five riders pulled clear in the opening 16km: Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Bram Tankink (Rabobank), Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r), Anthony Delaplace (SojaSun) and Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
Boosted by strong tailwinds, the break quickly carved out an eight-minute gap at 35km. Contador’s Astana boys moved to the front to trim the gap to six minutes and set pace until the sprinter teams, led by Saxo Bank, started the chase in earnest.
The gap was still nearly three minutes with 20km to go, putting the peloton on edge. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) time trialed at the front of the peloton to trim the gap from 1:10 at 10km to go to 40 seconds with 5km.
Their adventure ended with less than two kilometers to go.
TT test for AC
The 62nd Crtiterium Dauphiné continues Wednesday with the 49km third stage from Monteux to Sorgues.
The individual time trial will prove decisive in the battle for the overall title and should favor the specialists. The majority of the route is on wide-open roads in the mostly flat zone of the Vaucluse, just south of Mont Ventoux. There’s a third-category climb at the Côte de la Roque-sur-Pernes (1.9km at 6.8%) at 15.5km to spice things up.
“Tomorrow will be a difficult day, because I haven’t had much opportunity to test the new bike in race condition,” Contador said. “I could quite easily lose the leader’s jersey. With the mountains still ahead, the racing is just beginning.”
- Haedo took the occasion of his victory in Tuesday’s stage at the Dauphiné Libéré to defend Saxo Bank teammate Fabian Cancellara. Cancellara has come under the gun following rumors and media reports that suggest he used an engine-assisted bike to claim victories at this year’s Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.“They’re showing big disrespect for him as a person. Fabian is a big champion and he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody,” Haedo said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s an honest person. People think he’s using an engine because he wins races so easily. People have to accept the fact that he is that good.”
- 1. Juan Jose Haedo (ARG), Saxo Bank, 177km in 4:24:10.
- 2. Martin Reimer (GER), Cervelo TestTeam, same time
- 3. Grega Bole (SLO), Lampre, s.t.
- 4. Sebastien Chavanel (FRA), FDJ, s.t.
- 5. Roger Kluge (GER), Milram, s.t.