Evans mellow in yellow as Tour catches another cheat
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Evans mellow in yellow as Tour catches another cheat

by Agence France-Presse at 7:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Australian Cadel Evans spent a relaxing first day in the Tour de France yellow jersey on Wednesday as the peloton reeled from a second doping positive control at the race.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen of Norway beat Swiss Martin Elmiger and Alessandro Ballan of Italy to the finish line of the 11th stage, held over 167.5km from Lannemezan to here, to hand his CSC team their first win of this year's edition. "I've won two stages at the Giro d'Italia and the under-23 world championships, but this is the biggest win of my career," said Arvesen, the national road race champion.

Evans, riding for Silence, rode in with the main peloton 14:51 later following a bizarre final stage in the Pyrenees mountains which saw him retain his 1sec lead over CSC's Frank Schleck.

Still in third place overall is American Christian Vande Velde, at 38sec, with Gerolsteiner rider Bernhard Kohl of Austria in fourth at 57sec.

Two of Evans' major rivals, Russian Denis Menchov of Rabobank and Spaniard Carlos of Sastre of CSC, are still fifth at 57 and sixth at 1:28 respectively.

Evans admitted that having the yellow jersey on his shoulders had brought some welcome attention. "You get some respect from your peers when you wear this jersey," said the 31-year-old, who finished the race runner-up last year to Albert Contador of Spain.

It was also a help that Silence spent a relatively calm day in the saddle, allowing Evans a further day of recovery following a scary crash on Sunday which almost ended his campaign. "I'm still recovering from Sunday, so it's good to have that extra day. We had to use our heads today as well as our legs," added Evans.

Held in searing temperatures, the final day of racing in the Pyrenees featured only one major climb - and that provided Frenchman Amael Moinard with the springboard he needed to launch an attack.

He was part of a small group of riders that had pulled away from the peloton, containing Evans and all the big favourites, in the early stages and that went on to build a lead of 15 minutes.

However shortly after 2006 champion Oscar Pereiro, of Caisse d'Epargne, attacked the peloton on the category one-rated climb over the Col du Portel, Schleck's CSC team soon took over at the front and decided to chase.

That allowed Evans and his team to sit just behind watching out for potential attacks, and when the main chasing bunch being led by CSC caught Pereiro their intentions became clear.

CSC road captain Jens Voigt later admitted they had chased down Pereiro so as not to waste all their good work from Monday, when they dropped Pereiro and his team leader Alejandro Valverde on the ride over the Col du Tourmalet. "We rode hard on the way over the Tourmalet towards the Hautacam (climb) to drop him and Valverde out of contention in the general classification, so we weren't going to let him take back time today," said Voigt, who used the occasion to goad Evans' team over their tactics. "I didn't really understand their tactics. Did they not start to chase because they didn't want to, or because they weren't capable?"

CSC eventually relaxed the rhythm, and allowed the real battle being fought out in front of them to reach its climax. In total 11 riders were left trying to chase down Moinard. And, on his own and racing into a headwind, he was eventually reeled in with around four kilometres remaining.

For CSC manager Bjarne Riis, the stage win could not have gone to a more deserving rider. "It's really great for him. He's worked so hard for the team since the start," said Riis, the 1996 winner.

The stage ended on a sour note for the British-registered team Barloworld, who finished with only five riders after starting with eight.

Colombian Felix Cardenas, a former stage winner, in 2001, pulled out during the stage with a leg injury, barely hours after his Italian teammate Paolo Longo crashed out with a fractured collarbone.

Barloworld lost Colombian climber Mauricio Soler - the reigning 'King of the Mountains' - earlier in the race due to a fractured wrist.

On Wednesday morning, Spaniard Moises Duenas was kicked off the race by his team following the news of a positive test for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin). Duenas is currently in police custody.

Riis, who earlier this year finally admitted he had used EPO during his career, added: "Of course it's bad for the image of cycling. But in another way it's good because it proves that the controls are working. "The more controls there are, the better."

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