Alberto Contador, nursing a troublesome knee problem, has nevertheless piled the pressure on his major rivals, the Schleck brothers, by declaring the duo must attack soon if they are to have any chance of winning the Tour de France.
The Spaniard, a three-time Tour champion, has crashed twice since the race started on July 2 but was enjoying a rest day yesterday as the race prepares to head towards the Pyrenees climbs.
"[On Sunday] I hurt the same knee as the first time I crashed. This time it was on the internal side, though. I am a bit worried," said the 28 year old, who lies more than four minutes behind Thomas Voeckler, the race leader, after nine stages.
"The rest day is welcome. The doctor put a lot of ice on his knee and he spent as much time as possible with his leg lifted," Bradley McGee, his Saxo Bank team sports director, said.
Contador, who is racing the Tour while waiting for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to rule on last year's failed dope test, remained "optimistic". "I must control the pressure and transform it into motivation," he said.
Lying over a minute behind Frank and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg as well as the Australian contender Cadel Evans, Contador will not ride the Pyrenean stages with all guns blazing, however.
"Evans is the best placed rider and the Schleck brothers know there is a time trial at the end of the Tour so they are the ones who have to attack," he said. "I will, depending on my knee, choose the right moment to attack."
The 10th and 11th stages will be relatively flat and should not change much in the standings.
The real battle between the contenders should start on Thursday in the 12th stage with a finish in Luz Ardiden at the end of a 13.3km climb at an average gradient of 7.4 per cent.
Dubai Sports, 3pm
Kolobnev is the first culprit of a doping test
Russian Alexandr Kolobnev is the first rider to fail a doping test during this year’s Tour de France. Cycling’s governing body last night said the 30-year-old Katusha rider had given a urine sample which contained the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, a “specified substance” prohibited in professional cycling.
Kolobnev has the right to request results of his “B” sample, however his participation in this year’s Tour appears to be over.