After yesterday’s largely-unexpected attacks, the balance of this year’s Tour shifted further in the direction of Cadel Evans, and showed that Alberto Contador isn’t out of the running just yet.

From trailing Frank Schleck by 17 seconds, the Australian goes into today’s stage four seconds ahead of the Leopard-Trek rider, and has a comfortable-looking 1-18 over Frank’s brother and team-mate Andy.

However, while Evans managed to extend his lead over Contador by three seconds, the frequent, blistering attacks from the three-time Tour winner on the Col de Manse show that the battle for yellow is far from over.

Some were saying that Evans did not need to attack in the Pyrenees because of his small time deficit to Frank in the overall standings, but the BMC rider’s desire to put time into Contador – who was just shy of two minutes in arrears before the start of the stage – perhaps highlighted two things.

First, Evans realises Contador is riding into form and second, he know he needs as much time as possible over the Spaniard before Saturday’s time trial.

Cadel Evans, Tour de France 2009, stage 18 TT
Evans during the 2009 Tour’s 40.5km time trial around Annecy, in which he posted a time of 49-44

Why? The facts are clear. Evans has only beaten Contador in two of the seven Tour time trials they’ve ridden- and not since 2007.

Saturday’s contre-la-montre around Grenoble – a 42km test that was used in this year’s Dauphiné – is around the same length as the 2009 TT in Annency (Contador put 1-14 into Evans) and last year’s penultimate-day stage from Bordeaux to Pauillac.

Twelve months ago, Evans conceded 5-14 to Contador, but was admittedly suffering from a hairline fracture in his left elbow.

Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2009, stage 18 TT
Contador on the way to his sole Tour TT stage victory to date in the 2009 race

Fading French favourite
Sadly, it does not look good for Tommy Voeckler’s chances of causing one of the biggest surprises in recent Tour history.

He has only beaten Evans once in a time trial – the aforementioned stage in the 2010 Tour – and has never finished ahead of Contador.

Nor is Frank Schleck looking like as good a bet to win the maillot jaune as he was after last Thursday’s stage to Luz Ardiden.

He has never beaten Evans or Contador in a time trial, although if Leopard-Trek decide that Andy has to play the role of super domestique in the Alps, perhaps the brothers can finally take the fight to the other favourites.

History suggests that Frank will need at least two minutes over Evans and even more of an advantage over Contador if he wants to win the race.

One statistic that isn’t so good for Evans is that he has previously lost two Tours – 2007 and 2008 – by less than a minute. Could a third sub-sixty second defeat be on the cards come Sunday?

Tour de France 2011: Latest news
Cavendish joint seventh in all-time Tour list
Weather wreaks havoc in Etape du Tour
Basso back for Tour de France win
Garmin-Cervelo celebrate third Tour win
Geraint Thomas: “I had goosebumps on the Tourmalet”
Schlecks distance Contador in Tour mountain stage
Greipel gripes about ‘crazy’ Feillu
Tour de France Feed Zone (July 13)
Greipel’s first Tour stage win ‘extra special’
Greipel takes first win over Cav since HTC split
UCI defends its stance on tilted saddles
Kolobnev tests positive at Tour
Contador worried by knee injury
Tour rest day review (July 11)
Voeckler living the yellow jersey dream again
Hoogerland’s Horror crash
Crashes take toll on Tour’s favourites
Schlecks within striking distance of Tour’s race lead
Wiggins’ operation scheduled for Monday
Thomas leads Sky’s new focus
Analysis: Cav back on the train again
Sky devastated by Wiggins’ exit from Tour
Wiggins crashes out of Tour
Dan Lloyd’s busman’s holiday at the Tour
Wiggins saw Sky’s first Tour win coming
Tour bans motorcyclist after Sorensen’s crash
Cavendish’s race for the Tour green jersey
Cavendish surprises with Tour stage win and press conference

Tour de France 2011: Teams, riders, start list
Tour de France 2011: Official start list
Tour de France 2011: Who’s riding?
Tour de France 2011: Team guide

Tour de France 2011: Stage reports
Stage 15: Cavendish takes fourth stage win in 2011 Tour
Stage 14: Vanendert surprises the favourites as Voeckler holds on
Stage 13: World champ Hushovd takes well deserved solo Tour win
Stage 12: Sanchez wins at Luz Ardiden as Frank Schleck gains on other contenders
Stage 11: Cavendish moves into green after winning in Lavaur
Stage 10: Greipel beats Cavendish in Tour stage 10 sprint
Stage nine: Sanchez conquers day of crashes and climbs
Stage eight: Costa wins first mountain stage of 2011 Tour
Stage seven: Cavendish wins but Wiggins crashes out of Tour
Stage six: Boasson Hagen takes Sky’s first Tour de France win
Stage five: Cavendish wins in Cap Frehel
Stage four: Evans edges out Contador on the Mur-de-Bretagne
Stage three: Farrar sprints to first Tour victory in Redon
Stage two: Garmin win team time trial to put Hushovd in yellow
Stage one: Gilbert blasts to victory as Tour gets off to spectacular start

Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos
Stage 15 video highlights
Stage 14 video highlights
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Video: Feeding the riders at the Tour
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Video: Erik Zabel’s role as Cavendish’s sprint advisor
Stage five video highlights
Video: The ride of Philippe Gilbert at the Tour de France
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights

Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011 wallpaper gallery
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011 team time trial training photo gallery by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team press conferences by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW’s text coverage schedule
Stage seven live text coverage

Tour de France 2011: Archive videos
Video: 2003 Centenary Tour
Video: Lance Armstrong retrospective
Video: Behind the scenes at the Tour
Video: Guerini’s 1999 stage win
Video: Thrills and spills at the Tour
Video: Armstrong in 1999
Video: The Indurain years
Video: Ladies of the Tour
Video: Best of bizarre

Tour de France 2011: Archive articles

1999 Tour de France stage two: Passage du Gois causes chaos

Tour de France 2011: TV schedule
British Eurosport Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
ITV4 Tour de France 2011 TV schedule

Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France: The jerseys, what they are and what they mean
Potted history of the Tour de France
The closest Tours in history
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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