The Tour de France's 29.5 kilometre time trial in Cholet, France wasn't expected to turn up big time gaps between the general classification favourites, yet Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) was able to put more than one minute into Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). Evans might not have won the stage, but he took fourth place behind stage winner Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), and came in six seconds ahead of World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC-Saxo Bank).
Evans only took seven seconds from Rabobank's Denis Menchov, who lost 38" on Stage 3, but he put 1'07" into Valverde, around one minute on Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Andy Schleck (Team CSC-Saxo Bank), and 1'17 on Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank). Evans was pleased with the outcome, but was surprised as well.
"They said go and I went," he laughed. "It was a difficult start, actually. There was a lot of wind - a lot of wind which normally doesn't suit me so well. I am a little bit smaller and it suits the heavy guys like Cancellara. To be first of the general classification favourites, well that's the most important thing, but it is more important to look at where you finish compared to the other general classification contenders.
Evans credited his strong showing to the work he did on improving his aerodynamic position on the time trial bike. He said that it was a bit short for him, but that the wind was an advantage. "That helped with the new position that we worked on this year," he said. "I am much lower and it is more of an advantage in fast time trials than in the hills."
Now just 21 seconds away from the yellow jersey, Evans could well take the lead from Schumacher, who gained the overall lead with his stellar time trial. He now faces a tactical question - does he take the jersey on Super-Besse and have to defend it over both the Pyrénées and Alps? Or does he try to fly just below the general classification radar.
"I think that going into the next few stages and if Schumacher wants to keep the jersey up to Super Besse, well that will be good. For us it's so far so good. Tactically it's a good position to be in," Evans said, indicating that he might not want to take yellow just yet.