Menchov mishap gives Evans a nasty reminder
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Monday, July 7, 2008

Menchov mishap gives Evans a nasty reminder

by Agence France-Presse at 7:42 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Cadel Evans was reminded of just what it takes to win, and lose, the Tour de France after a hectic third stage here Tuesday which saw one of his potential rivals lose 38 seconds.

On paper, Denis Menchov isn't the Australian race favourite's biggest rival, that honour going to Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who happily gave up the yellow jersey ahead of Tuesday's first time trial.

However, a momentary lapse of concentration on the part of the Russian, and his orange and blue-clad Rabobank team was enough to see him drop further down the race's classification.

Menchov, a two-time Tour of Spain winner, found himself in a group that had been left trailing by some furious accelerations at the front of the peloton as they continued their futile pursuit of a four-man break.

And that left him way down the overall standings at 44secs behind Evans and 45 behind Valverde. "I was too far behind when the peloton decided to break away. Losing 38 seconds is not my idea of what I had planned for today," said Menchov.

"But I'm not that far behind in the general classification and I'm not giving up hope just yet."

Evans lost the Tour last year by just 23secs to Spaniard Alberto Contador, who is absent from this year's race, so he was quick to note the significance of Menchov's setback.

"Thirty seconds (advantage) to Menchov was the last time check I got," said the Australian, who nonetheless started this stage with a fall that left him with a cut finger on his left hand. "But when you've lost the Tour by 23secs, that's important."

Neither Valverde or Evans are likely to win the first race against the clock, but it is in their interest to clock the fastest times possible to stay in the mix ahead of some tricky stages in the coming days.

Switzerland's reigning world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara, who rides for Stuart O'Grady's CSC team, is the pre-race favourite with Scotland's David Millar aiming to cause an upset.

Cancellara, who wore the yellow jersey for a week of last year's race, is 1min 52sec behind new race leader Romain Feillu, the French sprinter who finished third on Monday's stage - won by compatriot Samuel Dumoulin.

Cancellara's priority is the stage win, rather than the yellow jersey, but Feillu - who only returned to racing in April after suffering from toxoplasmosis earlier this season - admitted it will be a hard ask to start Wednesday's stage as the race leader.

"I will have to see how I recuperate tonight, and I've never started such an important race with the yellow jersey on my shoulders," said the Frenchman, who rides for Agritubel.

"1:52 isn't a massive advantage over a time trialler like Fabian Cancellara." The starting order of the time trial is determined by a reversal of the race's general classification - the last-placed rider, Belgian Wim Van Sevenant, going first.

Evans, who only has a one-second deficit to Valverde, will start ninth from last, giving Valverde, who starts fourth from last, an arguable psychological advantage.

Valverde, who displayed his class by punching his way to a superb victory on the hilly finish of the first stage, on Monday showed that his team also have tactical acumen.

While the sprinters' teams missed the chance to catch the successful four-man breakaway, Caisse d'Epargne kept Valverde stayed ahead of all his yellow jersey rivals to make sure he starts behind them in the race against the clock.

"The aim for me was to make sure I started (the time trial) behind all the favourites, so that I will have an idea of mine and their times during the time trial," said Valverde.

The last time Valverde and Evans contended a major time trial over a similar distance was at the Dauphine Libere stage race in June, where the Spaniard beat the Australian into third place, albeit on a 31km course that was far more undulating.

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