"It's looking good for Jurgen Van Den Broeck", was the conclusion of his team leader Marc Sergeant of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team after the stage which finished on a 1st-category climb in Ax-3-Domaines.
Van den Broeck gained time on his main challengers for the top-five: he won 45 seconds on American Levi Leipheimer, the number 6 before the stage. If Van den Broeck avoids a bad day in the next tough mountain stages, he has the top-five in sight, as the long time trial on the penultimate day should be his cup of tea.
"We're not there yet", Marc Sergeant told reporters. "It's always possible that Van den Broeck has a bad day. But let's hope he can avoid it." Until now, the 27-year-old Fleming has not shown any signs of weakness.
Today, Van den Broeck took 8th place in a group with Andy Schleck, Spaniards Alberto Contador and Joaquin Rodriguez and Dutchman Robert Gesink, 1.08 minutes behind Riblon. Schleck and Contador, the two main contenders for the final victory, played a poker game on the last climb to Ax-3-Domaines with both refusing to take the initiative (photo).
In the overall standings, Schleck still holds an advantage of 31 seconds on Contador. Van den Broeck occupies 5th place, 3.31 minutes behind Schleck. The number 6 is now Robert Gesink, 56 seconds behind Van den Broeck.
The last time Belgium had a rider in the top-five of the Tour de France in Paris, was in 1986 with Claude Criquielion.