Riis confident in yellow jersey factor
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Riis confident in yellow jersey factor

by Agence France-Presse at 8:04 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
CSC team manager Bjarne Riis did not use words to describe how much wearing the yellow jersey will motivate Carlos Sastre in his battle to keep the race lead on Saturday, Instead, Riis simply held both his arms out as wide as he could. "It will be a big factor, but how much I don't know," Riis told AFP at the end of the race's 19th stage Friday.

Sastre, a 33-year-old climber who won the 17th stage to the legendary Alpe d'Huez summit, goes into the penultimate stage time trial over 53km on Saturday with a simple task.

To keep hold of the yellow jersey he took from teammate Frank Schleck on Wednesday, he has to hope Australian Cadel Evans, by far the strongest time triallist among the top six in the overall standings, does not beat him by his 1min 34sec lead.

The statistics from past races against the clock at similar distances all go in Evans' favour. And, in the race's fourth stage time trial - held over 29.5km - Evans took nearly a minute and a half from the Spaniard.

But as well as benefiting from the technical know-how of a team for whom time trialling has become a fine art, Sastre has two potential psychological advantages.

As the race leader Sastre will start last and thus have the benefit of chasing after Evans, whose time splits are likely to be relayed to him by Riis in the team car. Sastre will also be able to glean snippets of information from the teammates who have preceded him, crucially Swiss Fabian Cancellara, the two-time world time trial champion who is favourite to win the time trial in Saint Amand Montrond.

Cancellara is considered one of the strongest time trial riders in the world and, as well as being a three-time stage winner on the Tour, he also knows what effect the yellow jersey can have having worn it for nine days. "When you've got the yellow jersey you believe a lot more in yourself and I believe you surpass your expectations. That is something for sure Carlos will try to do tomorrow," Cancellara told AFP. "Of course, 53km is not 29.5km, but I think the pressure will be on Cadel."

In the absence of spectacular stage wins and attacks Evans will, if he succeeds, owe his first triumph on the race to a consistent campaign that has seen him limiting time losses to his big rivals. It is a recipe that worked well for Spain's five-time winner Miguel Indurain, until a brash young Dane upstaged 'Big Mig' in the Italian Alps in 1996.

Fourteen years on, Riis is close to getting his hands on another yellow jersey. And he believes the pressure is all on Evans. "The last chrono (time trial) is always difficult, but the pressure's on Evans," said Riis. "It's him who has to win, not Sastre. If he (Evans) doesn't win it will be a disaster, but if Carlos doesn't win the jersey in Paris we won't cry about it. It will be sad but we know we've done everything possible to win the race."

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