LES ROUSSES, France – Australian Cadel Evans admitted he was happy to sit just behind the race leader of the Tour de France after a first mountain test for the contenders here on Saturday.
Former two-time runner-up Evans began the seventh stage, a 165.5km ride from Tournus to here, just 39sec off the pace of overnight leader Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank.
But after a combination of unbearable humidity and the peloton’s pace took its toll, Switzerland Cancellara tumbled down the standings to 58th overall at over 13 minutes adrift.
Evans is still in second place, but is now 1min 25sec behind new race leader Sylvain Chavanel after the Frenchman capped a superb attack with his second stage win of the race for Quick Step.
Evans’ fellow yellow jersey challenger Andy Schleck is fourth at 1:55, with reigning champion Alberto Contador sixth at 2:26 and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong 14th at 3:16.
In theory, it is an ideal position for Evans, who is keen not to heap the pressure of having to defend the yellow jersey on his BMC team so early in the race.
“To take the jersey today would have put a lot of pressure on the guys, and there’s a long way to go. But I think tomorrow will be much more of a real shake-up,” said Evans after he finished in a bunch containing all the main contenders 1min 47sec behind Chavanel.
Like Evans, seven-time winner Lance Armstrong expects stage eight to host the first real skirmish.
The American said the Col de la Ramaz, the third of five in total on Sunday and which is over 14.3km at a steep average gradient of 6.8 percent, will play a key role.
“Tomorrow the key I think is Ramaz, which is before Morzine. It’s very difficult and there’s patches that are nine, ten percent (gradient),” he added.
“If we get temperatures like that people will be stuck on the road. There will be a selection tomorrow, it won’t be like today.”
The peloton will then tackle Les Gets (3.9km) then the 13.6 km climb to Morzine, where Evans believes there will be a new race leader.
However it might require a tricky calculation on the part of Evans’ BMC team bosses to keep him out of the yellow jersey while limiting any time losses to rivals like Schleck, who has recently said he wants the yellow jersey.
“We wouldn’t expected Chavanel to keep the jersey tomorrow (Sunday) but also, it’s not easy going against the Schlecks and Contador and Armstrong as well,” added Evans.
“But having the yellow jersey now is a little bit of pressure to have early in the race. It’s a good position to be in at the moment.”
Like many of the peloton, Evans admitted he suffered in the hot and humid conditions.
“A bit hot today. It’s funny, we’ve been on the flat for so long then we get to the climbs, it takes a bit of getting used to but everyone’s in the same boat,” he said.
Monday is a rest day, while Tuesday takes the peloton further into the Alps for another difficult stage beginning in Morzine and ending on the downhill finish at Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne.
The third and final week features four tough days in the Pyrenees which will be followed by a long time trial on the penultimate stage.
Article: Justin Davis (AFP)