Defending champion admits 10 second deficit to Wiggins is "not optimal"
Cadel Evans (BMC) moved up one place on the general classification after Stage 3, although his time deficit to rival Bradley Wiggins (Sky) remained at 10 seconds.
The slight improvement for the Australian in his Tour de France defence came via teammate Philippe Gilbert, who tumbled out of the top 10 following a crash. The benefits for Evans on Tuesday however small may be realised in the coming fortnight with Wiggins' team now down to eight men due to Kanstantsin Siutsou's broken left tibia.
"To be one man down, it's not an advantage that's for sure," said Evans when told of Sky's misfortune. "Nine's better."
BMC too had a few nervous moments with Gilbert crashing after being collided with from behind as he did his best to avoid one of the more serious pile-ups of the day, 30km out from the finish. The shunt left Gilbert with a grazed elbow and a damaged shoe, but personally, the greatest damage was done to his hopes of a stage victory – the Belgian forced into one of the many chase groups.
"It's always a worry to lose teammates," admitted Evans. "Whenever there's a crash in the peloton you're just hoping all you're guys come through. We need to be firing on all cylinders all the way to Paris.
"Phil, he's a pretty robust individual. He can lose a bit of skin but he just keeps going," Evans continued. "For him it was probably one of the last opportunities to have a go for himself today, but the most important thing is that we stay healthy and that our GC is pretty good."
Evans' body language as he crossed the finish line of Saturday's prologue hinted at it, but confirmation of his assessment of the GC battle came on Tuesday. The gap between he and Wiggins from the outset is more than he would have liked.
"It's not optimal but it's good and we're certainly right there," he said.
Despite Evans' considerable experience, the first week of racing at the Tour de France takes a toll but the 35-year-old feels as if his team is "getting in the groove" of the measured performance required for anyone with serious GC ambitions. Saturday's seventh stage, where the first steep ramps of the 2012 Tour will be encountered and in turn, the first real GC sorting along the 199km route from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles, requires that BMC will need to hit their straps.
Evans though, is all too aware that between now and Saturday, there are still three stages to get through, hopefully unscathed. The race is a long way from being over.
"[Wednesday] it's a little bit flatter and as the race goes on more and more guys get tired which actually makes it a little bit easier to stay at the front, funnily enough," he chuckled with the surrounding media. "Everybody find their rhythm in the race and a little bit of a pecking order gets established as well.
"In the next five or six days, there's a lot of nervous racing to go and it takes your attention all day. I don't know how it looks on TV but you don't take your hands off the brake levers for a moment, put it that way."
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