Evans relieved as Tour ends
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evans relieved as Tour ends

by Agence France-Presse at 8:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
For Australia's Cadel Evans, the Olympic road race in Beijing is already too far on the horizon.

For the immediate future, the 31-year-old wants to concentrate on winding down at the one-day criteriums which follow the end of the Tour de France - and then put his bike to rest.

Evans' overriding feeling was one of "relief" on Sunday after he finished his fourth Tour campaign with an impressive fourth top ten finish.

Yet his second consecutive runner-up spot, a year on from losing the yellow jersey by 23secs to Spaniard Alberto Contador, must have hurt. "No, my overriding feeling is one of relief," said Evans, who finished 1min 05sec behind Spaniard Carlos Sastre following Sunday's 21st stage into Paris.

After a year of meticulous preparation which has included up to seven hours of daily training in the mountains, in all conditions, Evans' yellow jersey bid unravelled over two crucial days.

The CSC team of Sastre was boosted by the experience of Stuart O'Grady and Jens Voigt, driven by the Swiss power of time trial king Fabian Cancellara and was unbeatable in the mountains where the formidable climbing powers of the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, and Sastre, were unmatched.

In the end, Evans - on his own for most of the race's crucial climbs - was regularly fighting one against three. "It's not an easy task when you're racing against a team that has three guys who are attacking you," Evans said Saturday after failing to overhaul his deficit of 1min 34sec to Sastre during a 53km time trial.

Evans' dream of winning the race took a major step forward when he pulled on the yellow jersey in the Pyrenees.

The 10th stage to Hautacam, won by Italian Leonardo Piepoli, saw the Aussie take the race lead by just a second ahead of Sastre's CSC teammate Frank Schleck, Luxembourg's national champion.

Despite being in the theoretical position of having to work to defend his lead, Evans' team were in heaven. "Everyone says we don't have the team to win this Tour, but Cadel is there," team manager Marc Sergeant told AFP when Evans took the yellow jersey. "Our leader is good, and we're going to help him as much as he can."

That help, however, was conspicuous by its absence in the crucial mountain stages, where CSC often had strength in numbers.

Schleck finally took the yellow jersey, relegating Evans to 08secs on the climb to Prato Nevoso in Italy. With Sastre a further 41secs in his wake, the Australian maintained that his diggest danger was Russian Denis Menchov.

Schleck kept the jersey until CSC team manager Bjarne Riis put Schleck and Sastre in a bedroom and told them that either one of them would have to decide who was going to fight for the jersey.

Sastre, with an impressive 16 Major Tours behind him and a better time trialler, won the argument and on the final alpine stage to Alpe d'Huez the Spaniard flew off the front at the bottom of the 13.8km climb.

He won with a 2:15 lead on Evans, giving the Australian an overall deficit of 1:34 going into the penultimate stage time trial.

Evans, obviously worn down after his efforts to keep pace with the incessant pace of CSC, finally relented. "I'm not devastated, just very disappointed. I felt like I rode a good time trial," said the Australian on Saturday.

In the end, the words of Scott Sunderland - one of the CSC team's managers - were prophetic. Two days before Sastre's impressive time trial ride, the former Aussie pro was adamant his team had done everything right. "It's not just (about) having the yellow jersey in Paris. It's how you do it, how you approach it, defend it and what you do in the race," he added. "To be honest they (Silence) didn't deserve the yellow jersey. It wasn't that Cadel didn't deserve it, but the team didn't deserve it because they couldn't defend it."

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