Mountain attack on the cards for defending champion
Despite being on the back foot in this year’s Tour de France Cadel Evans is confident that his experience and stamina will make the difference in the Alps and Pyrenees and help secure a second title.
The defending champion sits second overall, a place up from this time last year, but unlike in 2011, when he sat behind Thomas Voeckler and Luis Leon Sanchez, he faces a more robust challenger this year with Sky’s Bradley Wiggins 1:53 ahead of him.
While stage 9’s time trial to Becancon saw Evans lose more time than he and his rivals expected Evans used his rest day press conference to rally his BMC teammates and send out a warning to Wiggins and his other challengers that he would not be relinquishing his title without a fight, even hinting that a daring attack in the mountains may be on the cards.
Realistically Evans has to attack, whether in small incremental stages or in one roll of the dice. The 1:53 is not insurmountable but with 53.5 kilometres of time trialing still in the race the Australian is aware that a cautious approach may see the race slip through his fingers.
"The second half [of the Tour] is where I normally come into my best. That’s more my strength and consistency so now we’ll keep racing," Evans said.
"Having won it I know I can win it and at least having won the Tour I’m no longer asked whether I can win the Tour. I think I can. For the rest, we’re driven and hungry."
Evans isn’t alone in his GC predicament. Wiggins' Becancon time trial served notice to Vincenzo Nibali and the rest of the podium contenders that aggression was needed if Sky were to be fully challenged.
"If you have fourth in your hand sometimes people don’t want to give that up at risk of the podium and sometimes you go with everything and give it everything and maybe I lose second or something so it’s something that you have to assess at the time and make most of these situation."
Asked if Wiggins has a weakness Evans raised the issue of the Sky rider’s experience. Wiggins finished fourth in the 2009 Tour and third in last year’s Vuelta but Evans suggested that his experience of competing for the GC in grand tours for the last 6 years could become a factor.
"Look at his 2009 Tour or the 2011 Vuelta, he doesn’t have much of a three week history to gain on if you compare him to someone like Nibali, or Menchov or Kloden who have a much longer histories in the three week."
Asked if Wiggins was vulnerable, Evans added: "You hope so, you need some optimism. Otherwise I may as well sign on for second now."
- Tour de France