Australian Cadel Evans was at a loss to explain his current form after he lost nearly 30 minutes in the Tour de France's Alpine stage to Le Grand Bornand yesterday. He is 32nd overall with four days left until the Tour's final stage in Paris, where he finished second overall in 2008.
"I don't really have an explanation. It was the first time in the Tour I where I spat nearly a half-litre of phlegm," said Evans.
Stage 17 from Bourg St Maurice to Le Grand Bornand covered five categorised climbs in 169.5 kilometres.
Evans lost ground to the race favourites on the first climb of the day, the Cormet de Roselend. "I was able to return to the main group, but I was only at the back. It is not what I am used to."
He lost contact with the favourites again on the third climb, the Cote d'Arâches, and ended the stage with the main chase group in 81st, 29:43 back from stage winner Fränk Schleck. Wednesday's result contrasted starkly with his previous visit to Le Grand Bornand, where he finished with the overall favourites at the 2007 Tour de France.
"What else can I do? Should I kill myself to arrive 25th in the general classification? That is not why I am riding the Tour, my ambitions here are far higher."
Evans has never finished outside of the top ten in the Tour de France, he has placed second in the last two editions and wore the leader's yellow jersey for five days in 2008. His first disappointment in this year's Tour came on stage four in Montpellier, when his Silence-Lotto team lost 2:35 in the team timetrial.
He has been with the Belgian team since 2005 and has one more year left in his contract. He may look to leave the squad after 2010. "There are stress and politics in the team," he admitted after yesterday's stage.
Evans plans to race the Vuelta a España three-week race in September. He finished fourth at the race in 2007.