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Ivan Basso leads Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans inside the final 500m.
Australian cautiously optimistic after fine performance
The narrative of stage 12 of the Tour de France was composed of a number of different threads, from Alberto Contador's lapse to Fränk Schleck's aggression to Thomas Voeckler's defiance. But amid those variegated plotlines, the story of Cadel Evans was a familiar one, as the BMC man turned in another consistent performance at Luz Ardiden.
After the phoney war of the opening week and a half of the Tour de France, the real hostilities began with the first mountaintop finish, and Evans came home safely in a select group alongside Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek).
"You're never particularly comfortable in the Tour at any moment, right now included," Evans joked at the summit. "It's still early in the mountains and it's a long way to Paris."
In the chaos of the immediate aftermath of the finish, Evans was unsure of where his efforts had left him in the overall standings, although he was surely aware that his group's dislodging of Alberto Contador in the finale has altered the complexion of the race.
"On the first real mountain top finish, there's always something you don't expect and something you do expect," Evans said, although he was reluctant to discuss the specifics of the overall picture. "There are some who do and don't make it, some who do more or less, but I'll have to see the result."
Evans now lies in third place overall, 2:06 off Voeckler's yellow jersey, and 17 seconds behind Fränk Schleck. The Australian also extended his advantage over Contador to almost two minutes, and both the material and psychological gains of the day will doubtless be a boost to Evans' morale.
His BMC team was very prominent in controlling the peloton during the opening half of the Tour, but as anticipated, Evans was isolated on the final climb on Thursday. Nonetheless, along with Basso, he appeared to be the strongest of the elite group that formed in pursuit of Fränk Schleck in the closing kilometres, and he was enthusiastic about his chances in the remainder of the Tour.
"If the team keeps going every day the way they've done so far then we'll really put ourselves in a great position," Evans said. "We'll stay calm for now and see what happens in the coming days."