Prior to the first real mountaintop finish in Avoriaz, BMC Racing Team's Cadel Evans is in second position on the Tour de France's general classification. Evans, the reigning UCI World Road Champion, has a good chance to return to yellow after losing the jersey two years ago in the Alps; however, as Astana's Alberto Contador has learned from his previous experience in Grand Tours, it's often wise not to take the lead too early.
Evans knew the yellow jersey was already a possibility in Les Rousses, at the end of stage 7, upon the conditions that both Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) would blow on the first big climb of the Tour. In fact, both circumstances occurred, but Sylvain Chavanel's (Quick Step) epic ride helped keep Evans in a comfortable and familiar second position.
"It's not our goal to get the yellow jersey today," BMC team president Jim Ochowicz told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 7 in Tournus. "We'd be happy to receive it, but we won't fight for it."
"I'm satisfied to be sitting in second place," said Evans after the race. "To have taken the yellow jersey today would put a lot of pressure on the guys and it's a long way yet to go.
"Tomorrow is going to be much more of a shake up," he added. "Today, we saw all of the general classification guys looking at each other and, particularly in the final, it was strange - really hot conditions to start with, a pretty high tempo set by Bbox, and then in the final it was tough."
In the past five years, Evans has sometimes raced in the mountains with no teammates at his side. BMC's Steve Morabito finished with him in the favourites' group on Saturday, but Evans' biggest support came in a valley section where American National Champion George Hincapie rode hard at the front of the bunch.
"With the headwind, to put your team on the front was a real commitment," said Evans with satisfaction. "George and the others were keen to ride for a bit, but I was like, 'Nah, let's stay calm for a bit and save ourselves for tomorrow and what's yet to come'.
"Tomorrow is the first day with really big climbs and another mountaintop finish," said Evans. "It'll be another day when the main contenders look at each other, test themselves and we'll see if someone really wants to lay it on the line and blow it apart. For someone like Alberto or Lance, it's probably in his interests to try and do that. For me, it's a case of seeing how they go and how I cope.
"It's funny, we've been on the flats for so long that when we got to the climbs it takes a completely different muscle recruitment pattern and it takes a bit of getting used to, but everyone is in the same boat."
Evans has never been in such a favourable situation at the Tour. Two years ago he took the yellow jersey in the Pyrénées, but that came the day after a nasty crash on a downhill section. He hid the consequences that his body sustained, but they caused him to lose the yellow jersey to Fränk Schleck in Prato Nevoso and he couldn't get it back from Carlos Sastre in the final time trial in Montceau-les-Mines. When he went to the doping control that day, he was pissing blood.
This time, it's more than ever "so far so good" for Evans - an expression he has often used.