By John Trevorrow and Brecht Decaluwé in Albi
"It was good, it was very good," said Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto) about his stage 13 time trial. "It went according to plan, it was a good course for me. I knew when I first started out when I was getting times from my team-mate Leif Hoste, and I was faster than him in the first 10km, well that was a good sign, and I just kept going from there."
Evans remarked on the trecherous conditions that dashed GC hopes of star time trials like Fabian Cancellera (CSC). "Every corner I went into, I went at half the speed I wanted to and every corner I came out, I thought I was just about to lose it. It was really, really slippery on a couple of corners, and I understand a couple of people crashed. Every corner I went into ... I was very, very conservative."
Evans said he had expected to gain some time and never presumed he had Vino beaten so early in the Tour. "I was happy to make time up on [Andreas] Kloden. I was a little surprised at Vino's ride, but not for one moment had I written him off for this tour. I was also a bit surprised by [Michael] Rasmussen (Rabobank). He had a really good ride."
Still biding his time on any attempt to take over the yellow jersey, Evans said, "I just wanted to do a good time trial today, and for me to be second on this course, and at this time of the tour well I was first of the GC riders. That to me is a good sign. The best is yet to come I think."
Looking ahead to the coming days in the mountains, Evans said, "The Alps weren't easy but the Pyrenees are really - well let's just say there's going to be some real good racing over the next three days." He admits the mountains will suit him, but said it "depends on how your going, how your recovering in the third week. Everything changes now... . The way things are with Astana and Discovery both having two riders in the classification, well that's going to make things a bit tricky, but we will do what we can and keep going."
"Everyone is so close. It's only a bit over a minute back to Contador, and those steep Pyrenees climbs suit him. I know he is going to be good. They have an advantage having two riders on GC, as does Astana. It's just so close, I don't know. I was a bit surprised at how Contador went, but then he had a real good prologue and for a Spanish guy to do that means that he has done a lot of work and, I guess, [Johan] Bruyneel has quietly been working with him."
"I understand everyone's following [the Tour back home] and I am just proud and honoured to be able to fly the flag over here." Perhaps the most telling statement from Evans came when he predicted, "Just keep watching, the best is yet to come. There is still a long way to go."
Predictor pleased with Evans' ride
Evan's Predictor team was delighted with his performance in Stage 13's time trial. The team had earlier admitted that they haven't got the team to defend a yellow jersey, so they now sit in an ideal position with Evans in second, only one minute behind leader Rasmussen.
"Evans did a strong time trial. Only in the final kilometres, he suffered a bit," said directeur sportif Hendrik Redant on Evans' second place in the first time trial of the 2007 Tour de France. "The most important thing was that he survived the downhill parts as we feared that he could crash. There were a couple of dangerous corners there.
Redant continued by saying he wasn't surprised by the performance of his Australian leader. "Evans showed great form and after his performance in the time trial in the Tour de Romandie. I knew he could do well today." In fact, he claimed he predicted the strong performance from Evans. When asked about the unexpected strong performance from Michael Rasmussen, the Belgian complimented the Rabobank rider.
"He did very well. He must have worked hard on his TT skills," Redant said. He warned that the Danish rider is a serious contender for the overall win. "We'll see in the Pyrenees, but with a time trial like this in his legs, we have to watch out for him. With the uphill finishes that are coming up, we have to make sure we don't lose time on him. If that goes well, we should be able to take a minute on Rasmussen but we have to make sure the gap isn't bigger." Redant expressed his hope that Evans would grab the yellow jersey in a time trial on the penultimate stage.
The spontaneous Belgian also had words of praise for Vinokourov. "He showed character, as we all know, that he suffered a lot. Winning the time trial with this advantage and knowing the conditions that he rode through - it was still raining - there's no doubt that he pulled of a great performance."