Evans recovering in time for Alps
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Evans recovering in time for Alps

by Agence France-Presse at 8:33 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
For someone who finished the runner-up by just 23 seconds last year, it is understandable that Cadel Evans is taking this year's Tour de France one day at a time.

And after his third day spent in the yellow jersey, the Australian is now contemplating the importance of upcoming trials, beginning with the first of three stages in the Alps on Sunday.

Evans finished the 13th stage here Friday with his one-second lead on Luxembourg champion Frank Schleck, of CSC, but perhaps a little disappointed - at least for one of his teammates.

Silence-Lotto teammate Robbie McEwen finally managed to unleash his power in a bunch sprint, but the 34-year-old Aussie was outgunned by unstoppable Briton Mark Cavendish. "Cavendish is simply too strong and too fast," said McEwen. "This was the first time that I've really had a chance to do my sprint, and so it's a relief. But in the end I was beaten fair and square." McEwen's bid to add to his tally of 12 stage wins on the race appears to be getting harder and harder.

Cavendish, a 23-year-old from the Isle of Man who is on his second participation, has now won four. And, almost all of the Silence team has been ordered to concentrate on protecting and riding in front of Evans.

Fortunately for the 31-year-old former mountain biker, the recent stages have allowed him to slowly recover from the crash on stage nine which almost ended his Tour bid prematurely. After finishing among the bunch behind the fast men, Evans admitted that Friday's 'transitional' stage - where a breakaway was eventually chased down by the sprinters teams - afforded them a relatively relaxing day. "For our team today was the optimal situation with the break going early and the sprinters taking this opportunity to go for another stage win," said Evans. "They're running out of opportunity so I can understand why they worked so hard today. For us it was a good day."

Ahead of the crucial alpine stages, Evans admits he will need all his strength, and as much help from his team as they can muster.

In the Alps, CSC - being co-managed in the race by former Aussie pro Scott Sunderland - are likely to prove hard to beat as they prepare to fire a double volley in the shape of Schleck and Carlos Sastre.

Russian Denis Menchov will be an equally formidable danger for the Dutch Rabobank team, while Garmin will be hoping to provide support to American Christian Vande Velde.

"My injuries are slowly but surely getting better. I still have a few aches and pains but one of these nights soon I'll be able to sleep on my left side again," said Evans after Friday's stage. "Obviously we don't have a team full of climbers but Dario Cioni and Yaroslav Popovych have their jobs to do and they've been resting these last few days, making sure that they're following wheels and keeping fresh before we get to the Alps."

The first day of racing in the Alps is Sunday, when the 15th stage drags the peloton over the 21 km which lead to the summit of the Col d'Agnel.

A long ride through the valley could prove just as treacherous before the race ends on the summit finish of Prato Nevoso in Italy after a 11.1km ascent.

Evans hung on to a leading chase group in the Pyrenees last week as CSC drove a stinging pace over the Col du Tourmalet towards the foot of the Hautacam. But Evans knows they won't be the only ones to watch. "CSC has the advantage of numbers but Rabobank don't have nearly as strong a team as they had last year so I think Denis [Menchov] will be a little bit on his own as well. "I think the Tour will be decided every day between now and Paris, particularly the Alps and the final time trial. Normally I'm the sort of rider who progresses through three weeks and gets better towards the end, but so too do others. "Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov are riding for the same result as me and we haven't seen the best of them yet."
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