CSC's alpine attacks a dilemma for Evans
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

CSC's alpine attacks a dilemma for Evans

by Agence France-Presse at 8:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Cadel Evans is bracing himself for a crucial two days of racing in the French alps after giving up the Tour de France yellow jersey here on Sunday.

On the first day of three in the Alps the 31-year-old Aussie dug deep in a bid to stay as close as possible to CSC's Frank Schleck, and to try to limit his losses to other rivals.

The end result left Luxembourg champion Frank Schleck - who trailed Evans by just one second at the start of the stage - with the race lead for the first time in his career.

He now holds an eight-second lead on the Aussie, who dropped to third just one second behind surprising Austrian Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner.

But what the 15th stage from Embrun to here in the Italian Alps really did was to put the yellow jersey within reach of six challengers. One of Evans' biggest crimes Sunday was allowing Denis Menchov to jump back into contention.

The top six riders in the race's general classification are now in what the French call a 'pocket handkerchief'. It means they're all stuck together, the sixth being CSC's Carlos Sastre who is only 49secs behind Schleck.

If Evans can limit the damage during the 16th and 17th stages, following Monday's rest day, he will take a psychlogical advantage over his rivals into the ultimate stage time trial over 53km - a potential yellow jersey decider.

The Aussie will be hoping he won't need that option, but given another collective show of strength from the CSC team - in which fellow Aussies Stuart O'Grady, and team manager Scott Sunderland are playing their part - Evans should be anxious.

Evans was left on his own with three CSC riders to contend with on the final 11.1km climb to here.

Accelerations by Sastre, mixed up with some fierce tempo setting by the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, didn't leave him with much choice. Evans followed as best he could, but gave up time to Menchov, Sastre and Schleck.

Evans's Silence team manager Hendrik Redant said the race panned out much as he expected, playing down the fact that Evans lost Ukrainian teammate Yaroslav Popovych early on the last climb. "Losing 'Popo' like that was never planned. Our plan was for him to stay with Cadel a bit longer, that's for sure," Redant told AFP. "But the guys did a fair bit of work today. I think he (Popovych) is in better shape than he was in the Pyrenees. "And we weren't the only ones who were isolated on the last climb, the only team that had several riders was CSC. We saw today that being isolated is not a disaster. Each one of the team did his job."

CSC couldn't hide their joy, having seen Evans claim the yellow jersey by a second from Schleck on the 10th stage to Hautacam in the Pyrenees. Their only regret was not taking the stage win, one that was claimed deservedly by Australian Simon Gerrans after a successful breakaway which saw him finish four minutes ahead of the main favourites.

"We can't have everything!" said Kim Anderson, one of CSC's team managers. He was happy their plan to isolate Evans and their other rivals with some hard, collective riding in the lead up to the final climb came good.

And Anderson hinted they are now ready to crank up their attacks in the Alps to give them a cushion ahead of a time trial that Evans would expect to dominate, in comparison to Schleck and Sastre. "I think it would have been difficult to take more time today because the last climb was no so difficult," said Anderson, admitting he was surprised with Austrian Bernhard Kohl. "He's very strong, but he has the same (problem) as us, he's not so good in the time trial, so he needs more time, like us."

Another of Evans's managers Roberto Damiani believes the Aussie is still within sight of an historic yellow jersey, especially now that five different teams dominate the top six. "It's good for us that the other teams will be forced to work a little bit. If Cadel continues to race like he did today in the other two Alps stages, and he rides the time trial as we know he can, it should be okay," said Damiani. The Italian, however, added a caveat. "Those stages will still be difficult. Even (stage 16) Cuneo to Jausiers, with the climb over the Lombard pass and the Bonette, will be very hard."

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