Cadel Evans has his back up against the wall after losing a further time to Brad Wiggins today in the Tour de France. At the end of the Tour’s first long time trial test, he looked over the GC results sheet: Wiggins first and Evans second, but at a distance of one minute and 43 seconds.
Evans arrived at the team bus after an anti-doping control to face questions about how he is going to defend his overall title. Last year, BMC Racing’s leader only trailed Andy Schleck by 57 seconds going into the final time trial. Today, he faces twice that amount and what French newspaper, L’Equipe is calling the Sky Force.
Microphones and TV cameras neared. Still in his TT kit, salty from the day’s effort, Evans said, “I am obliged to chase time before the next time trial.”
The Tour de France this year is billed as a race of time trials, but Evans is going to utilise every mountain stage available to try to crack Sky. The race continues on Wednesday with a mountain stage to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. Just as in the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this year, Evans may use the preceding climbs to break free.
It is a fight for time gains before the next time trial. At 53.5km, the Chartres TT covers more ground than today’s 41.5km test. It is a tough fight considering Evans lost 1-43 today to Wiggins and 1-08 to Chris Froome. Wiggins’ team-mate, Froome gained enough time to jump to third overall.
More and more microphones neared as journalists realised the defending champion was present.
“Since the start I have not been in an optimal position, but I will continue to go for the yellow jersey until Paris,” Evans said. “I am a little disappointed to lose that time, but Froome and Wiggins rode really, really well.”
One journalist asked Evans about the possibility of doing better in the road stages. If Evans did not have the TT legs to compare with Wiggins’, he said, then maybe it would be a different picture when the race hits its first high mountains.
“That’s not how it works to be honest, but that is how it has played out in the last two days,” Evans continued.
“I have been feeling better day by day and having the hilltop finish there to open things up for me. I was surprised how Sky fell apart in the last climb [yesterday], but I am also surprised that they had first and second… In the time trial they were exceptional.”
The team’s manager, John Lelangue is polished and used to dealing with hard questions. He saw his father doing it when he was directing in Eddy Merckx’s team. Before Evans arrived from anti-doping, Lelangue tried to put a positive spin on the time loss.
“Two minutes, two weeks… we have time,” Lelangue explained. “If it was finished I would already be heading home tonight.”
He looked over the results sheet, too.
“It’s not a bad time trial if you look at the results. I think that other guys lost more time than Cadel. We were beaten by strong guys – two of them. It’s not finished. We still have two weeks to go until Paris. We still have to race the Alps and the Pyrenees, and one more time trial.”
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