In a Tour de France weekend marred by crashes and injuries, Chris Anker Sørensen’s determined efforts to secure the polka-dotted mountain jersey were thwarted by an aggressive Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky.
It all started so well in last Saturday's seventh stage as Sørensen led a breakaway and captured four mountain points from the first two category 3 mountain sprints. But then the peloton, led by a tenacious Bradley Wiggins and his Team Sky, set a blistering pace and caught the breakaway pack before they could reach the category 1 summit finish which netted 20 points for the winner, Team Sky’s Chris Froome.
The following day's stage didn’t get any better for the Danish mountain hope, who was looking to earn points on the brutal route that included one category 4, one category 3, four category 2 and one category 1 incline. But despite winning another four points, Sørensen didn’t have the legs that day and was once again reeled in by the relentless Team Sky.
“It was a seriously brutal stage and we never really worked together as a team. There were lots of strong riders that were racing individually in the breakaway and that cost us in the end,” Sørensen said. “I went for the win but when we were caught, I still managed to hang on for a respectable placing. But the goal is unchanged and I’m going for a stage victory.”
The disappointing weekend saw Sørensen fall 13 points behind in the competition for the mountain jersey. If he is to win the jersey this year, he will need to find his legs in time for the upcoming series of mountain stages in the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Despite the setbacks, Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank have performed well above expectations in the Tour so far. The team began on a high note with Michael Mørkøv’s multiple breakaways during the Tour's first week and with new sponsor money coming in, the future looks bright for team owner Bjarne Riis.
Riis used Tuesday’s rest day to look into strengthening his squad for next year’s season.
Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank is said to be in talks with legendary time-trial specialist Fabian Cancellara, a former Riis rider who defected to the newly formed Team Leopard Trek in 2011. Two other former members of Riis teams, Danes Matti Breschel and Jakob Fuglsang, who has been in the dog house for criticising his Radio Shack-Nissan Team for leaving him out of the Tour, may also be headed to Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank next season.
And this is certainly good news for Riis's team, because while the Tour riders pedal away in France, Fuglsang justified his criticism by winning the Tour of Austria over the weekend, and gaining valuable ranking points for the next team he represents. Fuglsang also won the Tour of Luxembourg in June.
In other news, Tour de France officials are speculating whether it is feasible to hold stages in Denmark. Denmark hosted two early stages of the Giro d’Italia this year. The event was well attended, and that could lead to a Danish Tour de France stage down the road. However, chances are bleak that it will be a mountain stage.