One only has to look at how close the team competition is between Radio Shack and Caisse d'Epargne to realize that Lance Armstrong's Tour de France is far from over. With a difference of only 21 seconds after 13 stages, this is one of the closest battles for the team title in recent years. The third place team, Astana, is over 15 minutes arrears.
The team competition is calculated by taking the stage time, not overall time, of a squad's top three riders each day. Going into the Tour, Radio Shack's top three riders were Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden. Luckily, when Lance faltered on stage 8, Chris Horner was there to take up the charge. Jani Brajkovic is also a rider who can contribute if someone else falters on a stage.
You might think that the Tour is all about the yellow jersey or at least a combination of jerseys. In fact, the team competition is a very desireable prize. After all, cycling is a team sport.
The competition for the team prize resulted in an unexpected stage win for Radio Shack. Because the battle for the team prize is so close, if a breakaway with a Caisse d'Epargne rider goes up the road, Radio Shack has to have an equivalent number of riders in that breakaway as well. If the break gains time at the stage finish, that time gain must be matched and better yet, improved.
So, when Vasili Kiryienka of Caisse d'Epargne got into the breakaway on stage 11 Radio Shack's Sergio Paulinho covered the move. His intention at the outset was just to keep an eye on Kiryienka. However, on the final climb when the breakaway disintegrated, Paulinho found the strength to go for the stage win.
So, when the race enters the Pyrenees, besides working for Levi to get on the podium, you will see Team Radio Shack trying to keep at least three rides near the front of the race to help keep their hold onto the team prize.
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