Evans expects tough battle ahead

By John Trevorrow in Pau The new leader of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans, was brought out to an...

By John Trevorrow in Pau

The new leader of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans, was brought out to an impressive display put on by his Silence-Lotto squad for the rest day press conference on the outskirts of Pau. Held outdoors in brilliant sunshine at the team hotel, he emerged to the sounds of the Australian band 'Midnight Oil', to take his seat at a table decorated with the toy lion draped in the Maillot Jaune and the garlands of flowers that are presented to every recipient of the yellow jersey every time they win or defend it.

Team manager Marc Sergeant welcomed the guests and recalled the somewhat idyllic first week. "I remember more than a week ago that our goal was to have the yellow jersey in Paris and it still is. Every day it went perfectly and we didn't lose time. Cadel rode a perfect race, he didn't lose any time were others did. But then came Sunday and the crash.

"[It was] a bit of shock, I remember coming into the hotel that evening and being relieved that nothing was broken, only bad bruising. Yesterday Cadel was great. He didn't not only survive the race but he took the yellow jersey. I think it's a dream come true for him and the team."

But both Sergeant and Evans know that his one second lead over CSC-Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck will set up a fierce battle to keep the yellow jersey. "For the next couple of stages it will be very hard - we know but we have to be strong we have to be smart and tactics will be very important. But I think we have the team for it. Some may have some doubts but yellow in Paris is still our goal and we are determined."

Evans said that he made a calculated effort to take the overall lead. "I was making some calculations on the climb and I thought if we hit out in the final 500 metres I may get yellow - and here we are with yellow jersey," but conceded it might have been better to let CSC have the jersey.

"CSC are strong, perhaps the strongest, and they rode a good tactical stage with Cancellara in front, and I have always considered them one of the strongest teams. ... they certainly have strength in numbers. They took advantage of that yesterday and it made it difficult but also to our advantage at times.

"It will be tough to defend the jersey. But there are five riders within a minute and a few including the Saunier Duval guys, not much further back. This Tour has along way to go and, with it being so close, fifth will be worrying about fourth and so on."

"I still feel my biggest threats are [Rabobank's Denis] Menchov and Fränk Schleck as well as [Carlos] Sastre. These guys are proven three week performers." One thing is for sure, said Evans, Schleck will not be repeating his performance which won him the Alpe d'Huez stage in 2006. "Put it this way, we're not going to let him go away in a breakaway like he did in 2006."

Evans' ascent into yellow was made even more remarkable by the fact that he crashed the previous stage and was badly scraped and bruised. But Evans expects those injuries to get better quickly. "I was still a bit sore this morning. But the bruising and swelling are going down. I reckon it will take about 48 hours. It's getting better each day."

Evans said that it is after the stage when his injuries cause him the most problems. "It's actually the trapezius that is causing the most trouble (a muscle on the upper back). You don't realise how many people want to pat you on the back until you have a problem. Then it becomes a major issue."

While he stood on the second step of the final podium in Paris last year, it was the first time he'd taken the yellow jersey, and he admitted to making a faux pas at his first Maillot Jaune presentation.

"I left the podium on the wrong side, not realising I was supposed to go the other way and shake hands with some important people. I was in trouble with Bernard Hinault," he said. "Next time I'll get it right. I was too busy looking at all the Aussie fans and their flags.

"But the best part was that I got a helicopter ride home. The Pyrenees are very scenic from up there."

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