Australian Cadel Evans' chances of winning the Tour de France may have evaporated on the 18th leg to the Col du Galibier today. He had to chase a long-range attack by rival Andy Schleck, but still lost needed time for Saturday's time trial.
"I had to put it on the line," Evans said, "but it was my Tour to win and mine to lose."
Evans had the upper hand heading into today's Alpine stage to the Col du Galibier. He sat four seconds over his nearest rival, Andy's brother and team-mate, Fränk Schleck. With his strong time trial abilities and a 42.5-kilometre time trial on Saturday, the Tour was his to lose.
Team Leopard-Trek's Andy Schleck took a risk that paid off. He attacked on the Col d'Izoard and gained 2-14 minutes at the top. By the finish, the highest ever in Tour history, he gained 2-15 minutes on team BMC Racing's Evans.
"They really had to do a long-range attack," Evans added. "I can't control an attack 30K out. And if Andy comes back, Fränk's probably going to go away. With Andy away, there's only one I have to control in the final."
Evans' BMC team, Liquigas and Europcar led the group behind. Evans figured they would have strength in numbers, but put the major effort in over the 23-kilometre Galibier. Frenchman and race leader, Thomas Voeckler rode defensively and saved his yellow jersey by 15 seconds.
"It's a bit bizarre when Voeckler's [Europcar] team stops riding and he has the yellow jersey," Evans said. "They just sort of looked at me to do the work, but I'm alone too."
To win, Evans must now ride defensively in the last mountain stage to Alpe d'Huez tomorrow or attack to gain time. If he starts with his current lead or more over Andy Schleck and other rivals, he will likely become Australia's first Tour de France winner.
Evans is confident of his chances in the 42.5-kilometre Grenoble time trial. At the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, on the same course, he placed sixth and 1-20 minutes behind winner Tony Martin.
"As long as we are within one or two minutes of each other, such a hard time trial, there can be big gaps if you arrive there a little less fatigued than those around you."
The Tour's GC
1 Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
2 Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 15"
3 Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 1'08"
4 Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) 1'12"
5 Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) 3'46"
6 Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) 3'46"
7 Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) 4'44"
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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