Australian talks about the bike problems that almost cost him the Tour de France
Cadel Evans (BMC) rolled to a stop just after the finish line in l'Alpe d'Huez and leaned on the side of a truck, exhausted by yet another huge effort in the Alps on stage 19 of the Tour de France.
He was immediately pounced upon by television cameras and journalists and didn't know the exact amount of time Alberto Contador had finished ahead of him, nor the gap to Thomas Voeckler behind. However, by finishing with the Schleck brothers, he knew he still has a great shot at winning the Tour.
Andy Schleck pulled on the yellow jersey and so will start behind Evans in the 42.5km time trial around Grenoble on Saturday, but the Australian must be quietly confident he can pull back the 57 seconds that stand between him and victory.
Evans admitted that he was surprised by Contador's early attack on the Col du Télégraphe. He was able to go with him but was then slowed by a mechanical problem and was forced to change bikes. It meant he had to chase all the way up to the 2556-meter summit of the Galibier and down the descent.
"I was sort of expecting Contador's attack but it was a real early, early and bold move, like Andy (Schleck) did yesterday," Evans said.
"I was well placed but was feeling pretty average. I could feel there was something wrong with my rear wheel, that was slowing me down. I think it was rubbing on the frame. It put me over the limit when I accelerated and that seemed strange. It's why I changed bikes. But when they're going pretty fast up front and you have to stop three times, the chances of getting back by yourself are pretty limited."
Evans chased hard on the Galibier and just failed to catch Samuel Sanchez when he jumped across the gap over the top. He eventually caught them after the long and fast road to the foot of l'Alpe d'Huez. But it had cost him valuable energy and given him a scare.
"I rode fantastic all the way up the steeper slopes of the Galibier," Evans explained. "I nearly got across to Sanchez, I was within 20 metres or something but I was trying to take on some energy. That was the difference between getting on his wheel and not."
Along the flat valley road to l'Alpe d'Huez, as the riders seemed uninterested in working to further distance a struggling Thomas Voeckler, Evans was seen talking to the Schlecks and he waved his thumb, indicating that Frenchman was closing the gap.
"They're two and I'm just one, but they seem to want me to drag them up here. I don’t understand that," Evans said caustically.
"I had enough time in the wind by myself yesterday, so I told them that Voeckler was dropped and asked why they didn't ride. They're second and third in GC and they both want to win. But I told them they were better off committing today and taking the yellow jersey. That's what we're here for…"
Frank Schleck eventually committed to work on the front during much of the climb up l'Alpe d'Huez before Evans tried to distance them both with a late surge near the finish. However, they eventually arrived together, 57 seconds behind stage winner Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
The three will now go into the time trial within a minute of each other.
Evans starts his ride at 4:12pm. Frank Schleck will start three minutes later, with Andy Schleck a further three minutes later in the yellow jersey. Evans' strategy for the 42.5km that will decide the Tour de France and his career is brutally simple: "It's a time trial. You have to start as fast as possible, finish as fast as possible. And hope it's fast enough."
If Evans wants to win the Tour de France, he has to beat Andy Schleck by 57 seconds and Frank Schleck by four seconds. Every second will really count.