Evans, Menchov, Vande Velde consider options
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Evans, Menchov, Vande Velde consider options

by Agence France-Presse at 2:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
A Russian-American-Australian alliance is unlikely to see the light of day on the Tour de France, or anywhere else, this year.

But with the yellow jersey up for grabs in the next two crucial days of racing, American Christian Vande Velde, Denis Menchov of Russia and Australian Cadel Evans certainly have a few common interests.

Luxembourg's Frank Schleck is wearing the yellow jersey going into the first of the last two days in the Alps, although five riders, including Menchov, Vande Velde and Evans, are within 50secs of his lead.

With the trio expected to dominate the penultimate stage time trial over 53km on Saturday, it has left Schleck, his Spanish CSC teammate Carlos Sastre, in sixth place at 49secs, and Austrian Bernhard Kohl, with no choice but to try and ditch their rivals on the last two stages in the Alps beginning Tuesday.

Given the prize at stake, talks of any kind of alliance to counter CSC have been played down. "We all have a job to do, and that's racing," said Evans, who is third overall at 08secs behind Schleck and one second behind Kohl.

All three, however, know they will need to limit the damage if they are to give themselves a chance during the time trial. "I'm feeling pretty good about things," said Menchov, who moved up to fourth overall at 38sec after a promising stage on Sunday when Schleck took the yellow jersey from Evans. "I'm only 30sec behind Evans, and he's not that much stronger than me in the time trial. After three weeks, anything is possible."

Menchov, a two-time Tour of Spain winner who rides for the Dutch team Rabobank, is Evans' pick of the bunch. And he is primed to bounce back from losing time earlier in the race, especially on Wedneday's 17th stage to Alpe d'Huez which traditionally hosts a massive contingent of Dutch fans. "The two stages coming up suit me really well, especially the Alpe d'Huez. It's practically a Dutch climb, and I'm sure there will be plenty of Dutch fans there to support me."

Vande Velde meanwhile is having arguably the best race of all the contenders, having come in with a dream of achieving a top ten place. Thanks to his consistency, the 32-year-old American is now challenging for the yellow jersey - having spent the early years of his career as part of seven-time winner Lance Armstrong's US Postal team.

His manager at Garmin, former pro Jonathan Vaughters, admits: "Really the key for Christian the next couple of days is not losing too much. He just has to tread water and not lose too much and it could be good. "Besides Evans and Menchov, he's usually better (in the time trial) than the rest of the guys in the top six." Vande Velde is fifth overall at just one second behind Menchov, and knows what he has to do. "I'm totally content with how the race has unfolded - more than I ever expected. Now I just need to be smart the next few days and smash that last time trial."

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