Tour de France contender Cadel Evans isn’t underestimating the challenge that lays ahead if he’s to ride back into contention at this year’s event. Evans’ Silence-Lotto squad dropped 2:36 minutes to general classification favourites Astana on yesterday’s team time trial, with the Australian saying bad luck and pressure took a toll on his young team.
“As expected, Astana put in a great ride, which puts me at 2:59 - not a position I wanted to be in,” Evans wrote on CadelEvans.com.au. “Still close to guys like Andy Schleck and Carlos [Sastre], but a long way behind the favourites of Astana. I certainly have my work cut out for me now.”
The team’s first blow came when it waited for Jurgen Van den Broeck following a crash, only for the rider to be dropped when he stopped a second time. The remaining seven riders were then forced to chose whether or not to wait for Johan Vansummeren, who punctured.
"I knew Matthew Lloyd and Charles Wegelius were not at ease in this type of effort and we are a team with lots of young riders who were a little bit stressed," he told AFP. "They're young riders and they haven't had many chances to ride a team time trial. I'm a time triallist and they're worried to disappoint me so it's a lot of pressure for the guys."
Evans said the incidents with van den Broeck and Vansummeren cost the team at least a minute. More crucial seconds were lost over the closing kilometre, with Evans proving too quick for most of his team-mates as the group separated. The team’s time is taken from the fifth rider across the line.
Evans now sits in 35th place on general classification, with overall contenders Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong both more than 2:30 minutes ahead. In fact all but two Astana riders lay ahead of Evans in the general classification. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) also has more than 90 seconds on the Australian, who finished second in 2007 and 2008 by less than a minute.
The team time trial may have placed Evans on the back foot but its still early days at the Tour de France, with the event yet to reach the mountain stages. Having general classification hopefuls with strong teams like Cervélo TestTeam’s Carlos Sastre and Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck should provide Evans with allies when it comes to clawing back the time from Astana.