Evans tipped for yellow jersey Saturday
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Evans tipped for yellow jersey Saturday

by Agence France-Presse at 9:40 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Cadel Evans has been tipped to overhaul his 1min 34sec deficit to Spanish rival Carlos Sastre ahead of their duel for the Tour de France yellow jersey in the final time trial on Saturday.

Sastre, who rides for the CSC team run by former Tour winner Bjarne Riis, stole the limelight on the final day in the Alps Wednesday by taking the lead thanks to a victorious attack at the bottom of the 13.8 km climb to the Alpe d'Huez.

The Spaniard finished 2:15 ahead of Evans and now leads teammate Frank Schleck by 1:24 in the overall standings, with Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl of Austria in third at 1:33.

However, the battle for the yellow jersey will now go down to a duel between Sastre and Evans, who remained in fourth at 1:34 following the 18th stage here Thursday won by Germany's Marcus Burghardt.

Despite his deficit, Evans - a respected time trialist who holds a Commonwealth Games title in the race against the clock - would normally be expected to finish the 53km time trial between two and three minutes faster than his Spanish rival.

In the race's first time trial, held over 29.5km, Evans finished fourth at 27secs behind winner Stefan Schumacher. Sastre finished 1:43 behind the German.

Some are wondering whether having the yellow jersey and starting last from the field will drive Sastre, more known for his climbing skills, on towards a maiden triumph on the race.

But British time trial specialist David Millar believes Evans would have to have a disastrous day not to overhaul the Spaniard. "Carlos will do a better time trial than he would normally do, just because he's going so well," Millar told AFP Thursday. "But he's a climber, so he's going to lose time to Cadel and Denis (Menchov) and Christian (Vande Velde)." So can we expect an Evans triumph on Saturday? "No worries," added Millar.

One of CSC's team managers, Australian Scott Sunderland, admits the rolling course on Saturday, which has no real climbs, is more likely to suit Evans. However, he believes Sastre, with the yellow jersey on his back, can't be discounted. "It's not perfect for Carlos, but he's in good shape, he has the yellow jersey and a lot of motivation and he just seems to be getting better and better, as he always does on the third week,"

Sunderland told AFP. "It also depends a lot on how Cadel and the other guys have digested the last three days (of climbing in the Alps). Come Saturday, they will all have more than 3000 km in their legs. "I also think Carlos will be fresher, he hasn't been under pressure. It could be (a major factor)."

American Christian Vande Velde, who dropped out of yellow jersey contention on the second of three days in the Alps, is aiming for the race of his life in a bid to secure a podium place.

The 32-year-old Garmin team leader is sixth place at 4:41 behind Sastre and is hoping to jump up to third at the expense of Russian Denis Menchov, Austrian Bernhard Kohl and Luxembourg champion Frank Schleck. "I think Cadel has a great chance of winning the Tour," Vande Velde, who finished 10secs behind Evans in the first time trial, told AFP. "I'm just going to go as fast as I can. Whether it's fast enough to win it or fast enough to move up a place, as long as I do a good ride. "I've never completely excelled at that distance but I feel really good so there's no reason I shouldn't feel good on Saturday."

All the big contenders enjoyed a relaxing day on Thursday, and Friday's 19th stage is likely to be dominated by a bunch sprint at the finish.

That means the time trial will, for the second year in a row, decide this year's champion.

For Millar, the road to victory is not rocket science. "The last time trial of the Tour is a completely different ball game. It's just a question of getting from A to B as fast as you can," added the Scot. "You've either got it or you haven't. There's very little technique involved. That's why the GC (general classification) riders are normally up there in the top five, purely because they're still physically capable of doing it."

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