With Friday's stage six from Epernay to Metz another tailor-made route for the sprinters, those who are aiming at the general classification of the Tour de France are inevitably eager for the race to gain some altitude this week-end. Interviewed by Australian TV Channel 10 at the start in Epernay, defending champion Cadel Evans looked forward to Saturday's stage seven, the first real mountain test of this Tour as it finishes on the Cat. 1 climb of Planche des Belles Filles.
On top of finally being able to put on a smaller gear, the BMC leader enjoyed the prospect of finally discovering his rivals' state of fitness. "Normally the first mountains are a good indicator of who's climbing well and therefore, who will be there in the other mountains," the Australian said. "You go in not knowing who's the best climber in the race, or who's bad and so on. But everyone one gets in looking for that, to get an idea of how everyone's going.
"That's the first thing, but then it's also an opportunity to make some time, hopefully... it's going to be an interesting race," he predicted.
Even if he conceded 10 seconds in the race prologue on probably his greatest rival, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Evans was satisfied with the outcome of this first week of racing. "I'd rather have ended a bit closer to the front guys in the prologue, it's not really important but you always want to be as close to the front as possible," he admitted. "But seven kilometres in a week of racing isn't much. More importantly the team's been incredible the whole week, to keep me safe without spending too much energy. That's crucial. So it's one more day of staying safe and then, of course, the first selection is going to be made."
BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue was also eager for the race to take to the mountains, after having had a good start. "We've done a good first week, which was quite a nervous week after all," he commented. "We're happy to arrive in a bit of a different landscape now. It will be a first test to have this transitional, medium mountain stage with a nice uphilll finish - it will be significant. It's true that it will not be the most challenging mountaintop finish at this Tour, but it will render some first information."
Lelangue also saw this Tour's first uphill finish as a real opportunity for his rider to make up some time. "It's a climb that could be to his advantage. There are some rhythm changes, it's not too regular. Everything will depend on the race situation, on how they get to this last climb, if there is a breakaway, etc. But there is always a possibility to make the difference, in every stage," he pointed out.
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