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2011 Tour de France notebook, stage 17: Delgado likes Evans; Danielson overcoming fears

PINEROLO, Italy (VN) — Pedro Delgado says Cadel Evans is in the driver's seat to become the first Australian to win the Tour de France.

2011 Tour de France stage 17 notebook. Photo: Andrew Hood
Pedro Delgado says Evans is the man to beat. Photo: Andrew Hood

PINEROLO, Italy (VN) — Pedro Delgado says Cadel Evans is in the driver’s seat to become the first Australian to win the Tour de France.

Delgado, a winner of the 1988 Tour, says Evans is in best position to win the Tour.

“Alfred Hitchcock would be a good director of this race,” Delgado told VeloNews. “Nothing’s decided yet. It’s suspense at the highest level.”

The Spanish rider said that Evans is in an “ideal situation” going into the final decision stages.

“They cannot let Evans keep hanging in there. On Plateau de Beille, (the Schlecks) needed to take a half minute or 45 seconds on him. They didn’t get anything. This is very good for Evans,” he said. “For me, the ‘winner’ coming out of the Pryenees and going into the Alps is Cadel Evans. He has a very strong team that is racing in an intelligent way. His rivals are attacking, but they are not able to blow open the race, so it’s a situation ideal for him. He’s not arriving dead to the finish line.”

Delgado, who now works as analyst on Spanish television, was highly critical of the Schleck brothers. He said the Leopard-Trek climbers missed an opportunity to grab control of the race in the Pyrenees and have left Evans and Contador with opens to win.

“We’re seeing the Schleck brothers racing hand in hand, there isn’t a clear bet on which one will lead. They cannot break open the race. I think this is a mistake,” he said. “The ones that look strong — the Schlecks and their team — they haven’t been able to break open the race. They have lost two opportunities, at Luz-Ardiden and Plateau de Beille. They cannot make the same error. They have to select one of them, Andy or Frank. One hard attack as far as it goes and then see what happens. None of this attack, wait, attack, wait. This ‘brothers in arms’ tactic doesn’t work.”

Delgado also said he expects to see Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Sungard) make a run for glory in the closing days, though he said it’s obvious the defending Tour champion is far from his best.

“For Alberto, it’s been a combination of factors of why we’re not seeing him at his best. His knee and the crashes, a long, hard winter with his doping case, and I believe that the Giro is the least of his problems. You get the sensation that the Tour doesn’t want him this year. We’re not talking about the French, but rather the actual race. The crashes, the incidents, the setbacks, he’s just not able to get comfortable. That’s why I think that every day he makes it through, he’s happy about that and that he still has options to put himself back in the race.

“Contador isn’t at his best, but he’s racing every day to save the day, to have the hope that one day he will be able to do something. Now he is thinking about the Alps. He could stay with the best in the Pryenees and he still has options.

And for a miracle victory by Thomas Voeckler? Delgado said the cracks are showing and he doesn’t expect the Europcar rider to deliver France’s first Tour victory since 1985.

“I believe that Voeckler will eventually crack, but he’s in an ideal situation, with the favorites attacking each other and he only has to follow. He will follow as long as he can. I don’t think he will be able to win, but if he can hang on throughout the Galibier, he could become a real threat for the podium.”

Danielson caught up

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) is hanging in there in his quest for a spot in the top 10 in his Tour de France debut.

Danielson ceded a few seconds when he got caught behind a crash involving Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) on the harrowing descent off the Pramatino climb into the finish line in Pinerolo. Danielson rode in with Basso, teammate Christian Vande Velde, Haimar Zubeldia and Thomas Voeckler to give up a few seconds, but he saved the day by avoiding a spill.

Danielson admits that every day during the Tour de France is nothing short of terrifying.

“This is my first Tour, but if there was anything that would sum up this Tour would be danger,” Danielson told VeloNews. “Every day I have an experience that I am terrified from. I am not willing to take the risks that some of these other guys are. Today was horrifying. If that was wet … we were crashing on the dry. Even before, small road, big peloton, it’s a dangerous race. I think to do well in the overall, you have to minimize the risks, and be consistent and stay on the bike.”

Danielson said he’s looking forward to the longer, steadier climbs, where he hopes to consolidate a spot in the top-10 overall.

“I am pretty excited to see these climbs. I’ve never seen them before,” he said. “I hope to ride well.”

The jerseys

  • Yellow: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) saw his lead reduced to 1:18 to Cadel Evans (BMC) when he gave up time on the final descent.
    2011 Tour de France stage 17 notebook. Photo: Andrew Hood
    Andy Schleck was the center of attention after the stage. Photo: Andrew Hood
  • Green: Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) earned 1 point on the stage to widen his lead over José Rojas (Movistar), 320-285
  • Polka-dot: No major changes as the break ate up most of the points; Jelle Vanendert (Omega-Lotto) leads Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), 74-72.
  • White: Rigoberto Uran (Sky) saw Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) reduce the difference to 59 seconds for the young rider’s jersey
  • Team: Garmin-Cervelo saw its lead to Leopard-Trek reduced to 5:27.
  • Most aggressive: Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won the day’s prize
  • Complete results

Jury decisions

  • Andriy Grivko (Astana): 100CHF fine, 5-point and 10-second penalties for illegal mechanical aid, feed and damaging the image of the sport (Article 12.1.040.37)
  • DS Alexandr Sheffer (Astana): 100CHF fine and relegation to last place in the vehicles for stage 18 for above violation

Medical report

  • Biel Kadri (Ag2r) – persistent knee pain
  • Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) – digestive troubles
  • Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) – skin rash
  • Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack) – back problems
  • Crash 172km: Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) – light cuts

The peloton

Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) abandoned, 169 riders remain

Weather

Sunny skies throughout most of day; temperatures around 25C in valleys, 6C at Galibier summit; up to 40kph northerly winds (headwinds) on the Galibier summit