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Cadel cracks as Tour hopes fade for defending champion

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Rupert Guinness in La Toussuire, France

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Tough Alps leave Cadel behind

It was one of the toughest stages in the 2012 Tour de France, with four riders pulling out and Cadel Evans dropping to fourth place overall at the end of stage 11 in the French Alps.

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The BMC team of Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has conceded that his chances of winning back-to-back titles are now "more complicated" after the Australian slipped out of the top three overall in Thursday's 11th stage in the Alps. But the team refuses to accept that hope of victory is over.

I lost a very disappointing amount of time to my main rivals. Not something that pleases me in any way. We continue on the same though 

An exhausted Evans did not comment after the stage as he normally would, instead riding straight into his team hotel and on to a stationary bike to warm down after the 148km stage from Albertville to La Toussuire. But as Evans spent the first private moments absorbing the impact of a dramatic day's racing that saw Briton Bradley Wiggins (Sky) extend his lead, BMC sports director John Lelangue pledged that he and the team would fight all the way to the finish of the 3496km race in Paris on Sunday week.

Lost ground ... Cadel Evans, left, fell off the pace during stage 11 of the Tour de France.

Lost ground ... Cadel Evans, left, fell off the pace during stage 11 of the Tour de France. Photo: AFP

"It is getting more and more complicated," Lelangue said, when asked if the prospect of Evans winning a second consecutive Tour was still alive. "[Being] more than three minutes [down overall on Wiggins] is complicated - knowing you have the [53km, stage 19] time trial at the end, that there are not so many mountain top finishes remaining, and also, looking at the team that Sky has here ...

"But we will keep fighting and see. It is always possible and we don't say [now] that it is finished. We will keep fighting for this every day until Paris."

Several hours after the stage, Evans made his feelings known on his personal website.

Cadel Evans .... he was unusually silent after the stage.

Cadel Evans .... he was unusually silent after the stage. Photo: AFP

Evans wrote: "Tough old day today....mountains all day - possibly a chance for an early attack to work, and a solid pace from start to finish made for probably the most physically demanding day of this year's race so far.

"We had a good early move going on the second climb the Col du Fer, with Amaël, Tejay and myself slipping away,  but I was not having my best day, so while may have caused havoc behind,  it was not a move to make any difference for the main GC contenders.

"On the last climb, I lost a very disappointing amount of time to my main rivals. Not something that pleases me in any way. We continue on the same though, we still have a lot more racing to go, certainly being over three minutes down is long way from optimal - it's far from over yet."

Struggled ... Cadel Evans, second left, lost ground to his rivals.

Struggled ... Cadel Evans, second left, lost ground to his rivals. Photo: AFP

The stage was won by Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar), the winner of last year's stage to Alpe d'Huez. He finished 55 seconds ahead of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Francaise des Jeux) and Briton Chris Froome (Sky) and 57 seconds ahead of Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Wiggins, who were fourth, fifth and sixth on the stage respectively.

Evans, who was dropped on the 18km climb to the finish, was 11th at 2 mins 33 secs, crossing the line with Luxembourg's Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) and his American BMC teammate Tejay van Garderen, who still defended the white jersey as best young rider despite waiting to help Evans.

The fallout means that Wiggins still leads the Tour going into Friday's 12th stage - 226km from Saint Jean de Maurienne to Annonay-Davezieux.

Cadel Evans of Australia crosses the finish line of the 11th stage. Click for more photos

Tour de France Stage Eleven

France's Pierre Rolland, wins the eleventh stage of the Tour de France. Cyclists race over 148 kilometers starting in Albertville and finishing in La Toussuire, French Alps, Thursday July 12, 2012. Photo: AP Photo

But he leads by 2 mins 5 secs over Froome, who is now in second place, while Nibali is third at 2 mins 23 secs, and Evans is fourth at 3 mins 19 secs.

The stage was full of drama after an early breakaway of up to 30 riders went away; and no one contributed more to the day’s events than Evans, who boldly attacked on the second of four major climbs - the Col de la Croix de Fer after 81km - two kilometres after Van Garderen set off in pursuit of the stage leaders.

The move was planned, and as risky as it seemed with so far to go before the finish, it appeared to begin well once Evans and Van Garderen united. They immediately settled down and worked together to try and extend their lead, although it appeared Van Garderen's pace at time was too high.

Unfortunately for Evans, the peloton, lead by Australian Michael Rogers (Sky), caught them after five kilometres - four kilometres shy of the Col du Glandon summit.

As Rolland rode on to his eventual stage victory, Rogers was at the front of Wiggins's group until the early pitches of the climb to the finish, after which Richie Porte took his place, then Froome. That forced the group to splinter further, but still it included Evans, Wiggins, Froome and Nibali among others.

Nibali's attack with 12km to go triggered the eventual demise of Evans. It led to a series of accelerations and Evans being dropped with 6.5km left.

Froome created a huge sensation, though, after he recovered from being distanced slightly and attacked with 3.9km to go to distance himself from Wiggins. But Froome eased and Wiggins rejoined him.

Later, Wiggins admitted he was relieved that a stage he said might be the hardest of the Tour was over.

"There’s definitely relief that stage is out of the way. It certainly lived up to being the hardest stage," said Wiggins, who had led the Tour since stage 8.

"Once Cadel had got dropped and we were in that little group, the relief was slightly overwhelming that we had got through this stage and actually have taken more time off Cadel, which we never expected,’’ he said.

"I was more surprised that Cadel attacked on the Glandon because there was a hell of a long way to go still and we were already riding a pretty strong tempo and we still had a fair few guys with Richie [Porte] and Mick [Rogers]. To attack and then to sustain a higher tempo than that and stay away with two climbs to go, I was surprised. It’s not something I would have had the balls to do."

125 comments so far

  • Evans might still be able to sneak 3rd overall but he put less than 30s into Nibali in the first ITT so it's unlikely Nibali will lose 1m in the last one.

    Cadel was probably lucky he won the Tour at all as Wiggins would have done something similar last year if he hadn't crashed out.

    Commenter
    Go Wiggo!!
    Date and time
    July 13, 2012, 9:17AM
    • I don't think so. Last year the main contender was Andy Schleck, Wiggins had not had the same amazing form in the lead up to the tour, good though it was. Evans in 2011 was superhuman, dragging the peleton up the side of a cliff almost single handedly deserves praise (and the yellow jersey). He had a very similar lead up in last year that Wiggins had this year. Winning the yellow jersey doesn't come through luck.

      Commenter
      Greg
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 9:49AM
    • yes, Cadel benefitted from Wiggo breaking his collarbone last year, although that's not luck - Cadel's just a better bike handler. but Wiggo is also lucky Cadel got sick as he was still building form this year and isn't on top form. If Cadel had last year's form, things would be sketchier for Wiggo right now.

      Commenter
      jules
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 10:19AM
    • Yes, a very uninformed comment, considering Wiggins' biggest strength is his team, of which ZERO key riders were in last years tour (Froome and Rogers didn't ride, Porte was with Saxo bank). Wiggins' would have been as vulnerable as anyone and surely would have sat behind Cadel up the Galabier like the whimp he is.

      Commenter
      dave cooper
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 11:03AM
    • And on the rest day Greg, did Cadel achieve world peace, and realign the planets, with his superhuman strength?

      Commenter
      Farmer
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 11:24AM
    • Everyone knows the TDF requires some good fortune. However Cadel and and BMC consistently ride on the front edge of the peloton to avoid the carnage seen in the first week. Other teams do not so it's not all luch. Also Cadel had super form last year and showed great composure to come back from a bike malfunction in one of the late mountain stages and then almost won the last TT.

      Last night when Cadel attacked and was struggling to keep up with Taylor Phinney, his paceman, we saw he is not on super form at the moment. Wiggo is on super form, has the advantage of two long ITT's and no super mountain stages this year like last. Some bigger mountains and one less TT and Cadel certainly could have done it this year.

      Let's not forget he is also a former world champion and several time runner up.

      Commenter
      Trav
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 12:27PM
    • @dave cooper - Uninformed? When Wiggins put 1m40s into Evans on the first ITT where was his team? It was all him and will be much the same on the last one. Even in the mountains the Sky team are very good but they can't ride the bike for him.

      Commenter
      Go Wiggo
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 12:42PM
    • sorry Trav, but Taylor Phinney is not racing

      Commenter
      jonno
      Location
      perth
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 12:49PM
    • Interesting how the first comment on these stories of any Australian sportsperson, actor, car, musician, model etc. that is or has achieved something outstanding on the world stage is always an uninformed, controversial, degrading one ... why is that?
      Tall poppy syndrome?
      Or low self esteem for all things Australian ...
      FACT: Cadel Evans is a world class champion.

      Commenter
      Alfa_male
      Location
      Hawthorn
      Date and time
      July 13, 2012, 4:08PM
  • The last three stages have shown that Cadel isn't the man he was last year. He couldn't match Wiggins in the time trial, in a course which was meant to suit Evans. And the last two stages have shown that Cadel hasn't got the legs for the mountains. With a final time trial to come, Wiggins should be able to gain another minute on Evans. Wiggins may not be the one to win the TdF this year, but Evans is not going to the make a comeback.

    Commenter
    Farmer
    Date and time
    July 13, 2012, 9:19AM

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