By Gregor Brown in Montluçon
On the eve of Saturday's crucial time trial, Silence-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant said Cadel Evans has a "fair chance" to claw back the 1'34 deficit on Carlos Sastre and win the 2008 Tour de France.
"We have a fair chance, although it is a pretty big gap," said Sergeant to Cyclingnews following Friday's stage to Montluçon. "It is after three weeks of racing, and in the past he has always showed good form in the time trial. We are pretty confident, 1'34 to the yellow jersey - it will be hard."
In Evans' favour is the added pressure that will fall on Sastre's shoulders, but there is also the possible lift the Spaniard could gain from the yellow jersey. "Sastre is in yellow and has the confidence. The yellow jersey can help, but it can also block you with stress," Sergeant added.
Evans will have seen the course on two separate occasions before rolling down the start ramp Saturday afternoon. He visited once before the Dauphiné Libéré and will see it again tomorrow morning before the stage. Besides the reconnaissance however, Sergeant insisted there was little else that could be done at this point. "There is no plan for tomorrow, just to go as fast as possible. We will do the normal preparations. Cadel is feeling good."
As for the remaining podium places, Sergeant believes the battle will be confined to the current top five. "There are a few guys who want to stand on the podium. The first five guys will have an open battle for the podium. From Vande Velde onwards, it will be real hard to take more than two minutes on Cadel or Menchov. You will see the winner come from the first five."