ST. FLOUR, France (VN) — Cadel Evans, BMC’s hope for Tour de France overall victory, is happy to have this week behind him.
Since the Tour began, more than 18 riders have dropped out — most from serious injury.
The violent group crash at the race’s midpoint on stage 9 spooked an already cautious Evans.
“I came around a blind corner and they were all lying there,” Evans said. “I saw a rider and I thought it was (former Omega-Lotto teammate Frederik) Willems. Honestly, it really, really, really frightened me. After what happened to Wouter in the Giro. I saw Willems there, and Brent Bookwalter was down as well — fortunately he got back on. But it really frightened me.”
For the second day in a row, BMC amassed its team on the front to lend a hand in pursuit of the breakaway.
“We did a lot of the work yesterday,” said BMC team boss Jim Ochowicz. “We didn’t want that group of nine riders just to walk away and get 15 minutes that we would have to bring back over the next two weeks. Our goal was to keep it at four or five minutes, and we did that, and it worked out well for us. Today, we had the same strategy, except that we were willing to let it out a little further.”
On stage 8, BMC’s chase efforts kept Evans safe — he finished third, at the front of a select group — but the American team’s work also helped keep Garmin-Cervélo’s Thor Hushovd in the yellow jersey — just one second ahead of Evans.
Ochowicz brushed off any such concerns about Garmin.
“Well, yesterday was a different race,” he said of stage 8. “Garmin has to make those choices themselves. We can only do what we do to protect our interests. What they do for strategy and tactics I can’t really comment on.”
BMC’s tactic on stage 8 and 9 was simply to protect Evans and keep a leash on the break.
“We had no injuries, we had no accidents. We protected Cadel. To me that is a powerful statement after the first week we’ve seen here,” Ochowicz said. “Our objective is not to hold the jersey right now.”
For Evans’ part, he was just glad to reach the first rest day safe and sound. Even at the finish, some time after the mid-race crash, Evans was clearly still shaken.
“We were going pretty fast down there,” he said of the descent that led to the crash that KO’d Alexander Vinokourov and Dave Zabriskie. “I was leaving a few gaps, because it was like a Pyrenean descent. You spend more time trying to slow down rather than speed up. (The crash) really frightened me. I was leaving a big safety margin. I’ve had enough of bike racing for this week, thanks very much.”