Evans doubts possibility of Tour win

Three minutes down after nine days

Cadel Evans questioned Monday whether he can win the 2009 Tour de France since he is already far behind after nine days and faces a powerful team Astana.

"At three minutes back I would say my work is cut out for me. I will need a lot of luck and for the stars to align," Evans said in Limoges on the Tour de France's first rest day.

Evans finished second overall in the last two years of the Tour de France. He started this year's race last Saturday in Monaco as one of the favourites to win, but after nine days team Astana has placed four riders in the top 10 - Evans is 18th.

Seven-time race winner Lance Armstrong and 2007 winner Alberto Contador lead Astana. Contador is in second at six seconds behind overall leader Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Armstrong at eight seconds in third. Teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden are in fourth (at 39 seconds) and sixth overall (at 54 seconds) respectively.

Working in Evans favour is the possibility that Astana could fail due to lack of team unity. Armstrong confirmed after yesterday's stage that there is tension between him and Contador. Some experts say that Astana could be misleading the media.

"I don't think they are playing a game," Evans said. He does believe, however, that the team looks impressive on the road.

"Those nine guys all riding on the front and the peloton in one long line...It is not easy to be in the position behind them and not even easy to be in a position in front of them."

Evans lost the majority of his time to the favourites on day four's team time trial in Montpellier. He and his Silence-Lotto teammates finished 2:35 down to stage winner Astana.

"I think that we have a very good team and it is performing. Astana has come with a team this year that, if is not the strongest team in the history of the Tour de France, it is certainly one of the strongest teams. No team is at their level so far."

Evans looked desperate when he tried to escape in Saturday's stage to Saint-Girons. He attacked early in the stage, but his escape companions refused to cooperate because they knew the teams of the other favourites would chase. Evans eventually returned to the Astana-led group.

Behind Astana, but ahead of Evans are Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) at 46 seconds, Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC) at 1:00, Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) at 1:24, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 1:49, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 1:54 and Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 2:25. Evans would form an alliance with his rivals to put Astana in trouble.

"It would be logical if some teams would want to try to cooperate. If not, let's just give Astana the podium flowers now."

The Tour de France, July 4 to 26, continues tomorrow with a 194.5-kilometre stage to Issoudun. The overall classification is unlikely to change until Friday's stage to Colmar or when the race enters the Alps Sunday.

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