By John Trevorrow in Rennes
Michael Rogers and Cadel Evans both passed the first real test of the 2006 Tour de France. The 52 kilometre time trial loop from St Gregoire to Rennes was always going to show up the pretenders and it certainly did. A few of the contenders fell away including Americans Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie, who dropped out of real contention.
But the two Aussies showed that they are still major threats. Rogers finished fourth in the stage 1 min 24 sec behind teammate Ukrainian Serhiy Gonchar but more importantly improved his position in the general classification to 1 min 8 sec. With Gonchar unlikely to survive the mountain stages in yellow, it means that Rogers is perfectly placed, only eight seconds behind American Floyd Landis. "I started well and I can't be too disappointed. My teammate's in the lead and I went as hard as I could I just didn't have the strength. Live to fight another day," Rogers said.
Evans finished eleventh in the time trial and is now eighth overall at 1 min 52 sec. He is also well placed for his mountain assault in a few days. "It all depends on how I climb I suppose. I will have a look at how it all pans out after today but the mountains are whole different scenario," Evans said.
Stuart O'Grady managed to finish a stage without any dramas and feeling much more confident about his chances of making it to Paris. "I felt a lot better today. The chiropractor has been great and I'm starting to feel about 65 instead of 80. With another couple of flat days and a rest day before the mountains, I may just recover enough for the challenge."