By John Trevorrow in Angoulême
While most of the world focused on Levi Leipheimer's incredible ride in the stage 19 time trial, the Australian fans of Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans were staying up late to scream encouragement at their television sets as the Predictor-Lotto rider inched himself closer to taking over the maillot jaune from Alberto Contador whilst simultaneously losing precious time to Leipheimer. In a nail-biting final few minutes of the stage, Evans pulled himself inside-out to save his place ahead of the American, sprinting up the final few hundred metres to hold on to an eight second lead over Leipheimer with a time of 1:03:35.
The seconds felt like minutes as Contador approached the finish line - he had to finish in a time of more than 1:05:25 to hand over the yellow jersey to Evans. As Contador approached the final uphill metres, the clock still read 1:04 and seconds - and the hearts of an entire continent were broken when the Spaniard held on to finish in 1:05:02. Evans had missed taking home the yellow by just 23 seconds. Evans as understandably disappointed, but philosophical. "It's all happened now, not much I can do about it. When you get so close you really want to win," he lamented.
It's logical that he should look back on the last three weeks to see where he left those 23 seconds. "When Contador and Rasmussen were working together, I lost those times. Maybe that one acceleration on the Aubisque where I didn't follow Leipheimer... Or where I was waiting on Caisse d'Epargne and Astana chasing into Loudenvielle - that's where I lost 55 seconds to Contador and that's where the one or two percent extra that I could have done comes in."
Still, Evans rode brilliantly to hold on to second place overall, and he credits that with a good second half. "I had a really good start and in the middle section," Evans told Cyclingnews. "I had the feeling that Leipheimer was going to be good there and I said to the director this morning, watch Leipheimer there. And when I thought if he can go that fast in the middle, I hope I can make it up near the end and that's how it happened.
Evans got nothing but support after the finish, especially from his beautiful wife Chiara who was excited for him. "I am so happy for him," she said. "He rode so great and I am very proud of him."