Evans heading towards yellow, but CSC ready
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Evans heading towards yellow, but CSC ready

by Agence France-Presse at 2:58 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
The reputation of Australia's Cadel Evans is going in two directions at the Tour de France.

After the second of two days in the Alps on Tuesday, Evans boosted his bid to win the race's yellow jersey after surviving the CSC team's wind-hit efforts to shake him off on the difficult Cime de la Bonette-Restefond climb.

But the quirky Aussie also showed that the stress of the race can have negative effects. Evans' efforts left him in third place overall at 08sec behind race leader Frank Schleck of CSC ahead of a likely yellow jersey decider on Wednesday when the race takes in two monster climbs before finishing on the legendary Alpe d'Huez.

"Tomorrow's going to be the mountain stage of the Tour, so it's a long way from being over yet," said Evans, whose strong performance allowed him to take 35secs from Russian Denis Menchov, a potential rival if the race goes down to the final time trial on Saturday.

For the second time in this race Evans avoided crashing out after just missing a parked motorbike as he tried to follow an attack on the descent to Jausiers. "I was a bit unlucky on the descent, I wanted to go with (Samuel) Sanchez when he went and just in the corner when I went to pass him a motorbike was just stopped on the exit of the corner," he added. "That gave him 200 metres and he stayed there until a kilometre from the end."

Evans ended up coming over the downhill finish line in a ten-man group which contained Schleck and his Spanish teammate Carlos Sastre, with Menchov trailing in 35secs later.

The 31-year-old Aussie then showed that racing on the Tour can be as stressful to the head as it is to the legs.

Evans has become something of a minor hit for cycling fans on You Tube since the start of this year's race.

First, it was for taking a whack at an intrusive reporter who got a little bit too close to an injured left shoulder.
That was understandable, given the pain from a crash days before then that could have spelled the end for Evans.

In the days that followed Evans's setback, he barked at almost everyone who got anywhere near him, including one famous TV presenter: "Don't touch my left shoulder!"

After the 16th stage, it was an unfortunate cameraman who bore the brunt of Evans' efforts to reach his team van. Running backwards and trying to film the Australian, a frustrated Evans took a leaf out of Frenchman Zinedine Zidane's football book of follies and tried to headbutt the intrusive camera out of the way. With the help of his Belgian bodyguard Evans got to his team van unscathed, and admitted: "I'm dehydrated, and I'm cramping."

Whatever frustration he is feeling, Evans still cannot fail to feel positive ahead of Wednesday's stage. Because of his superb time trialling skills, CSC need to make sure Schleck and Sastre have a two to three minute lead on the Australian ahead of the penultimate stage's 53km race against the clock this Saturday.

Sastre is still 49 off the pace of Schleck, and 41sec behind Evans, meaning it is imperative that the Spaniard, or the Luxemburger - if either wants the yellow jersey - need to attack on the 210km 17th stage to the Alpe d'Huez.

CSC team manager Bjarne Riis admitted that adverse wind conditions atop the day's second unclassified climb, the Cime de la Bonette-Restefond, had scuppered their plan to leave their rivals in their wake on Tuesday.

The Dane, who won the 1996 Tour de France, said his riders will have Evans in their sights, although he admitted that the qualities of recuperation of each contender will be a big factor. "To be honest I expected him (Evans) to stay with us today. There was a lot of wind so it's just easy to sit on the wheels," said Riis. "Everybody suffered a lot today, everybody made a lot of sacrifices and some will pay for that in their legs tomorrow. But hopefully not us."

Asked how Schleck or Sastre would deal with Evans on Wednesday, Riis was unequivocal. "If you want to win the Tour you need to beat him, you need to drop him for sure because he's the fastest (of the contenders) in the time trial," added the Dane. "I think the big battle will be on the Alpe d'Huez, but after the Galibier and the Croix de Fer if you're suffering on the Alpe d'Huez you can really lose a few minutes. "If you go too deep today, you pay for it tomorrow."
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