Cadel Evans is positioned to become the first Australian to win the Tour de France on Sunday in Paris. He defended himself well on the final mountain leg today to Alpe d’Huez and, on paper, is the strongest ahead of tomorrow’s time trial in Grenoble.

“It’s simple, start as fast possible in the time trial and finish as fast as possible,” said Evans. “Hope it’s fast enough.”

Team BMC Racing’s Evans sits third overall, only 57 seconds back of race leader Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) and four second back on Andy’s brother and team-mate, Fränk Schleck.

Despite attacks and a mechanical, the 34-year-old Australian rode defensively for a second day in the Alpine mountains.

Three-time winner, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) attacked from the gun in the short and mountainous leg. He shot free when he still faced 93.5 kilometres and three climbs: Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez. Evans, moments later, suffered a mechanical and was forced to chase.

“The early attack of Contador,” Evans continued. “I was sort of expecting it, a really early and bold move, like what Andy did yesterday.

“I think there was something wrong with my rear wheel and it was slowing me down a bit. A little acceleration just put me over the limit, it seemed strange.”

Evans explained that his rear wheel might have been rubbing against his bicycle frame. After a bike change, he and his BMC team chased.

Ahead of the famous 13.8-kilometre Alpe d’Huez climb, Evans was back in charge. Contador rode clear ahead, but not far enough to threaten Evans. He rode with the Schleck brothers, and despite pleas to help, he forced them to chase Contador. They put enough time into former race leader, Thomas Voeckler, to move Andy into the leader’s yellow jersey.

“They are in there for yellow and they want me to drag ’em up here? You know, I don’t quite understand that” Evans explained.

“They could have ridden with us yesterday. I had enough time in the wind by myself yesterday.”

Evans should now be confident for tomorrow’s 42.5-kilometre time trial and a win in Paris. He twice finished second, 23 seconds behind Contador in 2007 and 58 seconds behind Carlos Sastre in 2008.

“We came well prepared to the Tour, we knew what our objectives were and stick to our plan everyday,” said BMC’s General Manager, Jim Ochowicz. “Now we are in contention for yellow.”

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Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index