By Gregor Brown and John Trevorrow in Montpellier
Cadel Evans is quietly perched in a position to steal the overall classification away from Michael Rasmussen when the Tour de France arrives in Albi on Saturday for the 54-kilometre time trial. The Aussie is quick against the clock and at only 2'41" back on the classification he could be wearing the Maillot Jaune for the start of stage 16 to the Col d'Aubisque.
Before the start of stage eleven, Evans was already looking ahead. "So far so good, my focus now is on trying to stay out of trouble and rest the legs as much as possible in the stages leading into the time trial [Saturday]," he told Cyclingnews. "Then on the day, I will give it everything and hope I have a good day."
"The number one GC guy for the time trial will be [Andreas] Klöden, and it will be interesting to see how [Iban] Mayo goes because every now and then he pulls out a good one, and [Alejandro] Valverde, of course, he's improved his time trialling. [Alberto] Contador, he's going really good and he might surprise a few as well."
When asked if Evans could pull back 2'35" on yellow jersey wearer Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Evans replied, "I have no idea, but if he time trials like he did on the way to Tignes, then no way."
He is not letting anything slow him down in this Tour, as he explained the team quickly swapped vehicles when its bus would not start on Thursday morning. "Our bus broke down this morning," said the 30 year-old to Cyclingnews as we stood under the shade trees in the city centre of Montpelier.
The team's bus repeatedly broke down last year and was the joke of many journalists as they passed its stalled ride on the highway heading to these stage starts. "I don't know how many minutes we lost with the bus this morning. We jumped straight in the car and came here. The bus did not even start, I think. We had a bit of bad luck when our bus broke down three times during the tour last year. Now, the new one broke down again this morning.
"I like the old one actually. But as the Americans say, I am a bit old school. I like things that work; I don't care if they are new or old. They call me 'retro' because I hate buying a new phone or because I have a 1966 Mustang, or stuff like that."
The coolness of the morning allowed Evans to reflect on the hot racing into Marseille the day before. "Yesterday was so hot and guys were getting nervous going over the last two category three [hills]. Otherwise, it was a really fast start. I think a few of the classification riders wanted to be at the front so everyone else has to be there as well. Chris [Horner] and Fred [Rodriguez] worked for me in those finial kilometres. But the whole day it was 'Sevi' [Wim Vansevenant] and Leif [Hoste]."
The transitional days are survival days and Evans knows that any little mishap can be a loss of time, which is what happened with Moreau when he lost over three minutes coming into Montpellier. "It will be hot and windy, it is another day at the Tour, anything can, and will happen," he forecasted. After the stage he continued, "On paper I thought it was possibly the easiest stage. In reality it was the most stressful. The whole day there were crosswinds. It was a little bit stressful and surprising."
After today's stage, Evans was concerned that teammate Fred Rodriguez might have been in the crash and generally fatigued by the stress of the day. "On paper that was one of the easiest stages but with the cross winds, well in reality it was possibly the most stressful and very difficult crosswinds, splitting, crashes, I would have like a little less stressful day."
Noting the losses of Christophe Moreau (AG2r Prévoyance) for the day, Evans said, "[Tadej] Valjavec [Lampre Fondital] and Moreau were the only GC riders that were behind. It was a lot of work to do, but once there was a gap, the sprinters teams took over because [Erik] Zabel [T-Mobile] wasn't there either. That's where Barloworld and Quickstep took over, and in the case of Barloworld it certainly paid well for them.
Evans is taking his day-by-day approach for the 54-kilometre time trial that starts and ends in Albi. He stated he has not yet tested the parcours. "I don't know it. I have to wait and see it when we get there. I have no idea." He could slide in as the race leader and he does not care if this would end up surprising the foreign press, where he is largely not mentioned as a threat.
"I am well watched in the peloton, don't worry about that. What the press... whether they are talking about me or not I don't give a damn. I am not here to be famous."