By John Trevorrow
The tough climbs of the third week begin today with stage 15's ride to l'Alpe d'Huez. Finally, some sort of order should be imposed on the general classification of the Tour de France. Cadel Evans believes he has the form to match it with the best on the climbs, whereas Robbie McEwen will concentrate on getting through the Alps unscathed to secure the green jersey in Paris.
"Always, the third week of the Tour everything changes for everyone. I am sure this will be no different."
"So far so good, it is still going okay. I can't say a lot on how I am and how I am going to be because this Tour is so different to the last Tour - and it is only my second Tour - so I don't have a long history to base everything on, or plan on, or know what to expect. So the third week is where it comes down to the physique of the riders and riders who are not only well trained and well prepared for the race, but haven't stressed themselves earlier in the season and so on. For me it is the interesting end of the race … and a tiring one. [Sunday's performance] was a promising sign, but this Tour is so different to last year. And for me personally, its hard to compare the two. I don't really want to compare the two because they are contrasts.
"From the contenders [Landis] seems to be the one leading at the moment, his time trial is better than the rest of us. So maybe it is for him to lose.
"It's such a different Tour. [Formerly we would have had] Discovery making a selection and [there would be] a couple of riders who could stay with Armstrong for a while. But now we don't have such a strong team to make the early selection. That alone changes [the race a] lot, plus [there are the other] unpredictable factors in this sport and this race."
Q: When will be the decisive stage?
CE: "I don't know. I am waiting find out for myself. The time trial probably. I am not counting numbers or anything. Just ride a good Tour. Be there. Ride a good race. That always brings good results in a race like this. I don't like to look at the numbers. It doesn't synch with me. Put it this way, if say, I come fourth or I come fifth, everyone will write something bad about me."
"I am riding my race according to my tactics and not according to somebody else's wishes. For me the coming three days, not much should happen. Being mountain stages [means that] none of the sprinters will win those stages. Even the intermediate sprints are pretty hard to get to.
"I will just have to stay concentrated. It has been a hard competition this year. In the last five years I have always been in the green jersey competition. You can lose it so quickly. I know how close you can get. Maybe with a little luck I would have had four [green jerseys].
"Most of the battle hasn't been televised."