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Tour de France

It’s official now: Defending Tour de France champ Cadel Evans is now the challenger

If Cadel Evans once appeared to be the underdog, now he really is

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BENSANÇON, France (VN) — Cadel Evans seemed like an underdog before this Tour de France even started. Now, the defending champion really is.

Evans bled 1:43 to Wiggins over the 41.5km time trial from Arc-et-Senans to Bensançon, much of it before the first check. It wasn’t that Evans rode a bad time trial — it’s that Wiggins’ was just that good, as he blasted general-classification contenders and specialists alike.

Evans finds himself 1:53 back of the Briton in the GC with Sky’s other threat, Chris Froome, looming just behind, 14 seconds behind the defending champ.

For Evans, the effort was a disappointment. It revealed the nearly the same difference in time to Wiggins as the time trial at the Tour tune-up Critérium du Dauphiné, but over a shorter distance.

“I am obliged to chase time before the next time trial,” Evans told reporters who swarmed the BMC bus. “Since the start I have not been in an optimal position, but I will continue to go for the yellow jersey until Paris. I am a little disappointed to lose that time, but Froome and Wiggins rode really, really well.”

Evans said he didn’t know what to expect from himself and his rivals on stage 9, but this can’t have been it.

“It hasn’t been optimal so far, the Tour; 1:53 down is not the best position to be in compared to last year when I was only two seconds down (at the same stage),” he said.

“But we’ll reassess the situation day by day, and we don’t give up, that’s for sure, we don’t give up.”

Team managers have yet to panic. There is a feeling at the BMC bus that the road to Paris is long (something often said by the BMC and Sky teams) and that Evans is capable of taking the fight to Wiggins down the line.

“I was not running any numbers about loss or win,” BMC sport director John Lelangue said. “We were beaten by strong guys — two of them.

“We will see. It’s not finished. We still have two weeks to go until Paris. Still the Alps, the Pyrénées, one more time trial. We will see at the end.”

Lelangue also said he didn’t anticipate a long-range attack from the defending champion.

Team manager Jim Ochowicz said Evans’ mental toughness is on par with the top-level talents he’s known over the years, and comes with winning a Tour and a world championship.

“He’s not an amateur. He’s a pro. He’s been in the game for a lot of years. And he’s up for the challenge,” Ochowicz said.

“It’s a challenge to be the leader. It’s a challenge to be the challenger. We’re the challenger now.”