TOURNUS, France (VN) — If Cadel Evans doesn’t produce a Sky-cracking attack, this Tour de France is all but over. He knows it. Bradley Wiggins knows it. Everyone knows it. The question is, how will he do it?
“When you’re two minutes down, you have to be able to make moves,” Evans said to reporters on the Tour’s first rest day. “There’s still a lot of racing to go and the second and third weeks to come.”
The tone of Evans’ voice wasn’t one of resignation. He took a punch in the time trial from Wiggins, where he lost 1:43 to the Briton, putting him nearly two minutes back on GC.
There’s another long, flat time trial — which suits Wiggins even more than the first — meaning Evans must take time in the mountains. The position in which he found himself last year (reeling in an attacking Andy Schleck) is now what he must to Wiggins, though the Aussie says it will be much harder to isolate the Sky leader than it was to get Schleck on the ropes a year ago.
“Certainly, in theory, it might work, but in practice what we saw on La Planche des Belles Filles was two, three, four good climbers on Sky that can ride back and attack,” he said. “Where Andy Schleck had a good advantage was where he could really isolate me with his attack.”
All of this brings us to the question of what Evans can do. Attack? Yes, he must, and will, attack. There’s a feeling he’d sacrifice second place for a shot to win. As strong as Wiggins is, his domination in 2012 has come in weeklong stage races. He was fourth at the Tour in 2009, but 23rd in 2010. His teammate Chris Froome proved stronger in the Vuelta a España last year when Wiggins was over-geared and lost time and the overall lead on the ultra-steep Angliru climb.
It’s that third week Evans is counting on. He’ll also need to make some unlikely friends. Perhaps he, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) will work together to derail a vaunted Sky train. An alliance there puts the Aussie on a razor-thin edge, as Nibali and Menchov are after Evans’ second-place podium spot if nothing more.
“We’re really just at the midway point of the race here and the second half … that’s more my strength and consistency,” Evans said. “Whether we see an alliance of people, that depends on the situation. In the Tour, unfortunately, people sometimes race conservatively because they are happy with the place they have got.”
Evans will not.
“You need some optimism, if I was going to convince myself now that [Wiggins] was unstoppable, well I might as well sign on for second now. But he doesn’t have much of a history over three weeks when you compare him to someone like me, or Menchov or Nibali.”
And that is why they line up each morning in July.
“The reason why I love racing is because it’s so exciting, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Evans said. “I didn’t write the script, I don’t even know it.”