By Hedwig Kröner
Australian Cadel Evans showed in today's seventh stage of the Deutschland Tour that he is back to his best level, by winning the exciting mountain finish finale ahead of Saunier's Fabian Jeker and Liberty's Jörg Jaksche. The 28 year-old outsprinted his rivals in the last kilometre, with race leader Levi Leipheimer finishing fourth. T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich lost some time again and now has to make up 1'26 in tomorrow's time trial if he still wants to win this race.
"Towards the end, Ullrich got dropped and Totschnig was dropped. They were in second and third so it was in my interest to ride," said Evans after the cold, wet and windy stage which couldn't have been nastier. "I saw my chances at 600m to go. I went with everything from there." The former mountain bike rider was really happy with his win. "I've had a good season, and been in a good position for the races. But it's been a long time to wait for a win. I hope this is a start to return to my own level."
For Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer, it was a good day, even if he dropped off the pace a little at the end. The important thing was that he put time into Jan Ullrich, who is the best time trialist on paper, although things may turn out differently tomorrow. "That was a really hard day today," said Leipheimer. "For a long time, we didn't know if our tactic would work. But it did. And now it's become a little more realistic that I can win this tour."
Jan Ullrich, meanwhile, is still struggling with a cold but still take his chance tomorrow. "I feel pretty handicapped by the rain," 'Der Kaiser' said. "At eight degrees, I was cold and those just aren't the conditions for top performances." Speaking about his illness, he said, "That won't make the victory tomorrow any easier for me. Our team worked well today, but none of us are really healthy - and Gerolsteiner is very strong. But we're not giving up."
Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros) was leading the race by more than one minute when the main contenders hit the final climb up the Cat. 1 Feldberg. But he 22 year-old got reeled in by the overall contenders in the last couple of kilometres, before Evans outsprinted his rivals Jeker and Jaksche.
The main breakaway of the day saw Christian Müller (CSC), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Rory Sutherland (Rabobank) and Volodymir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo) attack after 15 kilometres, but they, too, were caught as another first-rated mountain had to be mastered 20 kilometres before the finish on the Feldberg.