Cadel Evans (BMC) burst through to win the stage to Mûr de Bretagne and cement his position as genuine contender for the Tour de France win. It was the Australian's second Tour stage win after he was retrospectively awarded the time trial stage 13 in the 2007 race.
"I don't know if I'm the master of the uphill finish, but today it was a difficult one with the wind and everything," Evans said.
"The first goal was to race without any problems and if all went well try for a result in the stage. In the end, I'm very, very surprised.
"For me personally, our objectives are always the same, all around GC and that's going to be done in the last ten days, anything in the first week is always a bonus, for me and the team – I mean, it's a good indication for me and my competitors – but GC is always the goal here."
Evans skipped this year's Giro d'Italia – a race he had targeted in 2010 – in order to focus primarily on this year's Tour, and his lighter race schedule has paid off in spades with victories in the Tour de Romandie and Tirreno – Adriatico.
"A lot of people make comparisons with last year and me doing the Giro and the Tour, but this is my sixth or seventh Tour – riding the Giro last year was about being in BMC and our Tour place not being guaranteed until about three months before. This year, we've had a better planned, better programmed build up to the Tour. Knowing in advance – I think that's really helped and it's showing," he said.
But perhaps one of the biggest factors is Evans's new success has been the environment at BMC, where he has flourished since moving from Lotto at the end of 2009. That factor, combined with a lack of bad luck that has plagued him in recent Tours, has propelled him to within one second of Thor Hushovd's yellow jersey and led Andy Schleck to point out after today's finish that "there's more than just Contador to worry about after today."
Evans finished his winner's press conference with a smile and added: "My main thing for this year's Tour has just been, 'Can I just not have bad luck, please?'. So far it's going really well, but we also put a lot of work into planning this race. The directeurs, the team, the staff – everyone did a lot of work and I think our homework's paying off.
"Everyone counts back to Mendrisio [as my rebirth] but for me I'm in completely different environment, with different people around me. Now the people around me have the same mentality as me, we work for the same goals in the team, and I think the results show."
Teammate Marcus Burghardt, a rider who could have ridden for himself today, paid tribute to his leader's qualities at the finish.
"He's a good leader and someone I like working for. I'm here for him and my objectives come secondary."
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.