Bakelants backs Schleck as he holds yellow

Spotlight on Bakelants (Getty Images)

So excited was Jan Bakelants about wearing the yellow jersey on Monday's third stage of the Tour de France that he hardly slept on Sunday night, but he still found the energy needed to stay in yellow as the race heads for the French mainland.

Probably tomorrow I will lose the yellow jersey. It will be painful but I have to think about the nice days I've had in it.

Bakelants said at the start-line for Monday's 145km ride from Ajaccio to Calvi on Corsica that he last looked at his watch at 2:30 am and was up again less than four hours later - hardly the best preparation for a ride that took almost as long.

Nevertheless, he came in as part of the group of riders that was handed the same time as stage winner Simon Gerrans, and that performance ensures that he continues to lead 71 of his rivals by a mere second overall.

The 27-year-old rider from the RadioShack-Leopard team, who won Sunday's second stage, said he enjoyed the experience of being race leader on a tricky, winding route up the Corsican coast that also allowed him to remember what it was like to be doing the chasing rather than being out in front.

"Today I was in the bunch with the riders who were chasing me yesterday," he said.

"And that gave me an idea of how strong I was yesterday to hold on because today again four riders were out there, and we pulled them back quite easily.

"It was in fact completely the same situation. I felt how hard the bunch goes and I am even more amazed now about what I did yesterday."

Bakelants and his colleagues now switch their attention to Tuesday's 25km team time trial through Nice, in which their status as the leading team means they will go out last.

"It's going to be hard," he said. "Probably tomorrow I will lose the yellow jersey. It will be painful but I have to think about the nice days I've had in it.

"The Tour is still long. This morning it felt like it had already been a week!

"There are a lot of things to come. Probably I will lose the jersey tomorrow and in the next days I will lose some time. Then there might come some opportunities to go in the breakaway."

Bakelants again expressed his confidence in the prospects of team leader Andy Schleck, who lies one second behind him in the general classification with three stages down.

"The Tour is still young and the real mountains are still to come, but he is still there and if tomorrow we do a good team TT we will be in a good position going towards the Pyrenees.

"Then we will have a first indication of how good exactly he is.

"Andy is always someone who gets better and better over a three-week race so, knowing that the hardest stages will come at the end, I don't think we have seen the last of Andy Schleck."

SBS will broadcast all stages of the Tour de France live.

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