Rolland returns to form
Two days after his bad crash, Pierre Rolland confirmed his return to form during the eighth stage of the Tour between Belfort and Porrentruy.
"Pierre is seldom pleased with his performances, but he gave us total satisfaction today. I would have settled for that result before the stage," said team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau after Rolland's 16th place on the undulating 157km stage through the Jura mountains.
Well positioned on the front of the peloton for most of the stage, Rolland was unable to keep up with a select group of riders - including the yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins - on the last of seven categorised climbs, the Cat.1 Col de la Croix.
Battling with the race's best riders on the final climb of the day, Rolland did not have the legs to go all the way – but limited his losses ahead of Monday's time trial.
Rolland fought back on the 15km run into the finish and crossed the line in a chasing group 59 seconds behind the yellow jersey group. France's Thibaut Pinot of FDJ-BigMat held on to take the stage, 26 seconds ahead of the chasing Wiggins group.
"It was a stage that will stay in the memories of many because all the riders suffered. There was no let-up for single second," said Bernaudeau.
Rolland rises to 20th in the GC, 4:26 behind Team Sky's Wiggins, who leads Australian defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) by 10 seconds ahead of Monday's ITT show-down between the two race favourites.
Christophe Kern, already on the offensive in the opening week of the race, was part of the stage's main breakaway but faded on the final climb. Kern finished in a third group at the finish alongside team-mates Thomas Voeckler and Cyril Gautier, just under five minutes behind youngster Pinot.
"The speed dial was very high for a hilly stage today. It was practically a sprint throughout the day for Kern," said Bernaudeau. "Those other escapees who were with him were also cooked. Hardly anyone was spared."
Voeckler was unluckily caught up in a crash that brought about the withdrawal of Spanish Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel. "Thomas fell on his hands. He had a scare but managed to come out relatively unscathed," Bernaudeau continued.
Voeckler's situation is reassuring but some concerns are still there. "We will wait and see how his knee is going. If it's positive, we can start being more optimistic. What is most important is his health," he stressed.
Monday's objective is clear: concede the least time possible during the long, 41.5km time trial between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon. "We're going to lose a lot of time, for sure. But we have to try and limit Pierre's losses so he's in a strong position going ahead. After that, everything should be much clearer."