Contador entered the Tour with title ambitions and had the full support of every teammate save for sprinter John Degenkolb, who up until now has been going it alone in the flat stages when given permission.
But a change of team tactics was obvious in stage 10 when Degenkolb finished second to green jersey Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) in a bunch kick, with teammate Koen de Kort reprising his normal lead-out role. He was also sent minimal back-up following a crash in stage 11 today.
Contador is now apparently on the hunt for stage victories given he hasn’t been able to keep up with the overall contenders, currently 12th overall and five minutes and 15 seconds in arrears of yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky).
“Contador is one of the biggest names of our generation and we’re still going to look after him of course,” de Kort said of the Spaniard. “But with him being basically out of GC, the goal was podium, it’s going to be really hard to achieve, so we definitely have refocused.
“Markel [Irizar] and I are helping John a little bit in the final. It’s not like we’re going to be riding on the front all day to try and make it a sprint for John, it’s not going that far, but it’s not eight guys staying with Alberto anymore.”
De Kort is accustomed to assisting champion sprinters, like Degenkolb and former teammate Kittel, at the Tour but has at least on a short-term basis enjoyed a change of pace at the 104th edition.
“I’m not sure if I would enjoy doing this always, every race, every year, but for a change, it was really nice. It’s almost unfortunate that it’s not really happening but that said I really enjoy working for John again,” de Kort said.
“Contador is a big leader and he knows what he wants. He’s pretty demanding at times of himself and of his teammates but I think that’s good. That’s what John does too. It’s what you have to be as a leader.”
How the dynamic at the Tour plays out in the future remains to be seen. De Kort followed Degenkolb to Trek-Segafredo this season. The team also acquired Contador, who is rumoured to be negotiating a contract extension now.