June 12, 2011 – Leopard sports director Kim Andersen believes there is far more to come from his team on the Tour of Switzerland after the first major selection of the race Sunday.
Colombia’s Juan Mauricio Soler stunned Leopard’s reigning champion Frank Schleck with a late attack to take the honours, and the overall lead, on stage two after a first day in the high mountains.
Victory for Soler, a former winner of the Tour de France ‘King of the Mountain’ polka dot jersey, at Crans-Montana ski station came after Schleck had attacked twice in the final 10km in a bid to leave key rivals behind.
Schleck eventually finished third, 12secs adrift and in the company of Italian Damiano Cunego to sit fifth overall 31secs behind Soler ahead of another day of climbing Monday.
After the first climbing installment of five on the nine-day race, one overall victory favourite in particular, Germany’s Andreas Kloden, has virtually dropped out of contention.
Schleck’s younger brother Andy also appeared to struggle late in the stage, the two-time Tour de France runner-up eventually finishing 16th at 1:39 adrift.
Despite a fruitless day for his team, Andersen believes it’s early days yet.
He hinted that climbing specialist Andy is preparing for a stage win in the mountains while also helping Frank, where possible, to defend his crown.
“Today was a good day to test the other leaders and learn the condition of the contenders for the overall,” said Andersen. “We might seem a little bit behind, but it means we can take things easier tomorrow (on stage three).
“There are a lot of hard stages coming in the next few days, and I consider the team to be in a good position to do hard work, go for stage wins and contest the overall.”
Kloden, who trailed home with the sprinters’ ‘grupetto’ over 10 minutes in arrears, is now 10:46 behind Soler overall.
But while the German is no longer a major threat, Soler will not be Leopard’s sole preoccupation.
Ahead of stage three, a 106km trek from Brig-Glis over two major climbs to Grindelwald, American Tejay Van Garderen is still very much in contention in fourth overall at only 27secs adrift and four ahead of Frank Schleck.
Kloden’s American teammate at RadioShack, Levi Leipheimer, only began losing ground late on Sunday and sits 38 adrift, just ahead of Italian Danilo Di Luca.