Reporting by John Trevorrow
The stage five finish to Châteauroux saw another opportunity pass by for Silence-Lotto's sprinter Robbie McEwen, with the Aussie finding it tough going against a well-drilled Columbia lead-out train. McEwen eventually finished eighth after hitting the front too early and fading before the line.
"Yeah it was hectic as always," said McEwen. "I came off Steegmans' wheel and I thought it might have worked out but it was a bit far into the wind. Actually I got shunted out into the wind a couple of times coming into the sprint and I never really got a run at anyone.
"Columbia has the strongest train here and the best organised one," he added. "I knew that before the start. But you need to have a bit more than just the best train, and Cav was good too."
Silence-Lotto leader Cadel Evans acknowledged that with the team entirely built around his bid for overall victory McEwen has a tough time contesting the sprints by himself. "We had it all going well and we had Robbie there to finish it off. Unfortunately when he is racing on his own it reduces his chances a little bit," said Evans.
"Tomorrow is going to be much more interesting I think from a GC point of view," added Evans, but refused to say what his tactics might be. "Ah, I could tell you but then I would have to kill you!"