Tour de France hopeful Cadel Evans suffered his worst day in five Tour appearances as Alberto Contador took a commanding grip on the Tour during Stage 15. There were no major mechanicals or accidents to speak of for Evans on the 207.5 kilometre stage, rather the Australian simply lacked fitness.
"That was the worst day from kilometre zero," Evans told AFP. "From kilometre zero, I was having possibly one of the worst days of my Tour de France career on what is the most important day for the classification.”
Evans crossed to the lead group, driven by Astana, on the Verbier climb but eventual stage winner Contador had already made his move and was continuing to increase his lead. Evans tried to follow as defending champion Carlos Sastre attacked the group containing Lance Armstrong and Astana team-mate Andreas Klöden, but pulled out just three seconds on the pair to Sastre’s 23 seconds.
"Sometimes you just have to do what you can and I don't know about the time loss and the placings, but I think I defended well for a guy who was having a horrible day,” added Evans. "It wasn't death on a bike, but it was a real bad day for me.
"I had a terrible day, there was not much left in my legs at the end," he said.
"When you hear that, you cannot but wonder how he fought for the stage classification over the last ascent," commented his coach Roberto Damiani on Evans' performance.
Evans seventh place on the stage saw him lose a further 1:26 minutes to new race leader Contador. Added to time previously lost to the powerful Astana squad, Evans now sits 4:27 minutes behind Contador in 14th place overall.
"I need to see the doctor now, I don't know what the problem is," said Evans as he walked away.
Evans hoped to be a serious contender for this year’s Tour title after finishing runner-up in 2007 and 2008 – first to Contador then Sastre. Evans’ Silence-Lotto team has often been criticized for not having the strength to support its team leader, unlike Astana which has three riders in the top four positions.
Silence-Lotto sponsor Marc Coucke was "not satisfied" with this outcome of the first Alpine stage. "If this was really Cadel's worst Tour day ever, things will be interesting next week," he noted. Still, the day's breakaway included Jurgen Van den Broeck, a "future great Tour rider" according to Coucke.
Evans’ team-mate and compatriot Matthew Lloyd put in a solid ride on Stage 15. Making his Tour debut, Lloyd finished in 24th place 2:52 minutes behind Contador.