Evans admits CSC simply too strong
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Evans admits CSC simply too strong

by Agence France-Presse at 9:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
The Tour de France, as Cadel Evans and every other yellow jersey contender likes to say, is never won in a day - but can be lost in a day.

That day came for Evans on Saturday, when he lost out on making history for Australia for the second year in a row. And again, it was to a Spanish rider.

After losing out by just 23secs to Alberto Contador last year, Evans saw his yellow jersey dreams shatter when he failed to overhaul a 1min 34sec deficit to CSC's Carlos Sastre during the penultimate stage time trial. Sastre, a 33-year-old Spaniard who took control of the race with a daring solo attack towards the summit of Alpe d'Huez, now leads Evans by 1min 05sec going into Sunday's final, and usually celebratory stage to Paris. In previous years Evans has regularly beaten the Spaniard over similar distances by over two minutes. So it was with some surprise that Sastre finished the race against the clock only 29sec down on the Australian.

Either Sastre, bolstered by wearing the yellow jersey and starting last from the field with Evans somewhere up the road ahead of him, produced the race of his life. Or perhaps - after three weeks of trying to fight off the pain of injuries from a crash, as well as a CSC team that made life extremely hard - Evans simply ran out of juice.

Either way, Evans was "very disappointed" with a performance that cost him dearly. "I'm not devastated, just very disappointed. I felt like I rode a good time trial," he said admitting he was "very surprised" by Sastre's time. Evans' Silence team manager Marc Sergeant said, however, he had been expecting more. "I expected better (from Evans). To win the Tour we would have had to finish in the top three in the time trial," said Sergeant, who felt Evans lacked the form that allowed him to finish ahead of all of his yellow jersey rivals on the fourth stage time trial at Cholet. "If he had raced like he did at Cholet, he would have won the Tour. Today, Cadel just didn't have the legs."

Evans was the fourth last to start but after Sastre came past the first time check after 18km the writing already looked to be on the wall. He had managed to take only eight seconds off the Spaniard.

Evans was equally stunned when he heard some of the early time splits, including from second-placed Austrian Bernhard Kohl, the race's best climber who eventually finished just 16secs behind him. "I was relly surprised when I heard the first time check from Kohl, I thought I was doing good. I was in shock," said Evans. "There's three or four guys who did the time trial of their life. But what could I do? I gave it everything, and it wasn't enough."

Many will attribute Sastre's impending victory to his attack on Evans at the foot of the 13.8km climb to the summit of Alpe d'Huez, where he finished 2:15 ahead of the Australian to take an overall lead of 1:34. But that would not have been possible without the support of a CSC team which provided textbook protection and support for Sastre throughout. "You only have to look at a rider like (Fabian) Cancellara to see what we're all about," said Sastre. "He sacrificed his chances of winning the (20th stage) time trial by working hard in the mountains for me." Evans regularly tries to talk up his teammates, but they were virtually invisible - especially in the final, crucial stages of the climbs where he was often left at the mercy of Luxembourg's Schleck brothers Andy and Frank.

Yet Evans admitted Silence were facing an uphill task before the race even got to the mountains: "It comes down to also the fact they (CSC) have two, two and a half times the budget we do, and straight away that can buy much better quality riders. "CSC had the most incredible team, with three guys capable of winning the Tour so they deserved to win." He added: "When people are almost looking at me as the favourite it puts me in a difficult situation. It makes it not an easy task when you're racing against a team that has three guys who are attacking you.

Sergeant, who for the first time had formed his team around Evans, thus relegating sprinter Robbie McEwen to working solo, has always recognised his team's comparative weakness. But what the future holds for either Evans, or Yaroslav Popovych, the man whom Evans expected to be his main battle companion on the climbs having done such a great job for Lance Armstrong in 2005, remains to be seen.

Sergeant added: "Popovych didn't manage to do what we'd hoped at the Alpe d'Huez. If he'd managed to help limit our losses, we could have been 40secs behind Sastre (instead of 1:34). "We'll look and see how we can strengthen the team." Evans says this won't be his last shot at the yellow jersey. "I was having a good progression there, eighth (in 2005), fourth (2006), then second (in 2007)," he added. "From second to first is maybe the hardest step. But I think I've got three or four good tours left in me."
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