Evans above Valverde as Schumacher takes yellow jersey
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Evans above Valverde as Schumacher takes yellow jersey

by Agence France-Presse at 1:53 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Australia's Cadel Evans struck a first blow to Alejandro Valverde at the Tour de France here Tuesday after leaving his yellow jersey rival trailing on the fourth stage time trial.

Germany's Stefan Schumacher of the Gerolsteiner team stunned the pre-race favourites to win the 29.5km race against the clock in a time of 35min 44sec.

However, Silence-Lotto rider Evans, and Luxembourg's yellow jersey hopeful Kim Kirchen, of Team Columbia, made sure they stole a share of the limelight in what was the yellow jersey favourites' first big appointment. Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, the reigning world time trial champion over the longer distance of 55km, could only finish in fifth place at a massive 33secs behind Schumacher.

Kirchen, an outsider for the race's big prize, finished second at 18secs behind Schumacher, with Scotland's David Millar in third also at 18.

Evans was fourth at 27, while Valverde, who wore the yellow jersey for the first three days after winning the first stage, was way off the pace finishing in 23rd place at 1:34.

Having started the day with a one-second lead on Evans, the Spaniard is now 1:07 behind the Australian, who finished the runner-up to Spaniard Alberto Contador at last year's Tour where Valverde finished sixth.

At this early stage of the race, and ahead of crucial stages in the Pyrenees this weekend and the Alps a week after that, Evans said he is not getting carried away.

"It's a good start but we're a long, long way to Paris and I just wanted to see my level against the others," said Evans, who last month lost to Valverde in a 31km time trial, over climber's terrain, at the Dauphine Libere stage race.

"I think from the Dauphine to here if you look at the time trial results I'm on a good progression. But, like we saw yesterday, everything changes day to day. For now, it's a good start. Every second, and every minute I can gain on him (Valverde) is very good."

Schumacher's presence here has caused something of a controversy because he has been allowed to race by organisers despite testing positive for amphetamines in a control undertaken by police while he was not competing.

The German said he was sorry over that "regrettable" episode.

And he said winning the race's first time trial was not such a surprise.

"A lot of guys told me this circuit was good for me because it's really up and down, not too flat. And the distance, between 20 and 30 km is good for me," said Schumacher, who won the Amstel Gold Race last year.

"I'm really happy because it was a good performance from me and I didn't make any mistakes. "Cancellara was the big favourite, even for me. So to be half a minute faster than him was a big surprise for me."

Schumacher said his form in the event known as the 'race of truth' was partly due to his Olympic ambitions for Beijing.

"I did a lot of training for the time trial recently because I want to compete in the time trial at the Olympics, so I had to qualify for that at the German championships."

Wednesday's stage is a 232km ride from Cholet to Chateauroux and is likely to be dominated by the sprinters, who have yet to contend a bunch sprint.

However, Evans believes he could be in for some yellow jersey action on Thursday, when the peloton hit the first serious climbs leading to Super-Besse in the Massif Central.

"In my mind, for the general classification (GC) this has been the first appointment for the overall favourites," added the Australian. "Like I say, so far so good. Let's see in Super-Besse. That will be the next big showing for the GC favourites."

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