Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) finally donned that long-awaited yellow jersey on Saturday going into Sunday’s parade to Paris as Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) won stage 20 of the 2011 Tour de France.
Evans began the day 57 seconds down on race leader Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek), but it proved a very small bar to hop during the 42.5km individual time trial in Grenoble. At the first time check the yellow jersey had already conceded 36 seconds of that advantage to the Australian, and at the finish he had surrendered even more — Martin took the stage in 55:34, but Evans took second, just seven seconds slower, and the yellow jersey along with it.
Andy Schleck finally hit the line two and a half minutes slower than the new race leader and slipped out of yellow into second overall, while brother Fränk hit the line in 58:14, good enough for third place on GC.
Evans was grinning broadly as he accepted the yellow jersey to cheers from hundreds of his compatriots.
“Really, I can’t quite believe it,” said the Aussie, who was quick to share the plaudits with his BMC teammates who, to a man, supported his campaign relentlessly in what has been the most unforgiving race in years.
“I rode the best time trial I could today. Every day, we rode the best we could. Every day, the team did 99.9 percent, if not 100 percent. I had a couple of off days, a couple moments of bad luck. But we just kept to our plan and every day we kept working.”
Asked how it would feel to wear the maillot jaune into Paris, he replied, “I hope the sun’s out.”
Martin likewise was elated after his winning performance on the day.
“After I saw that I couldn’t follow the best riders in the mountains my only goal was to win this time trial,” said Martin. “For me, it’s a really nice way to finish the race.
“I was confident but a little bit nervous. I had a good advantage to him (Evans), but it was getting less and less. I can’t describe it. I’m so happy. I just keep on smiling. It’s a really big day for me.”
The course in Grenoble was the same one used in this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. That time around, Martin also took the win in 55:27.
Evans finished sixth on that day at 1:20, while the other top GC players in this year’s Tour, Andy and Fränk Schleck, skipped the Dauphiné to do the Tour du Suisse, where they were unimpressive in the 32.1km ITT (46th and 60th at 2:32 and 3:06, respectively, behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek).
The day dawned cool and damp with fairly consistent winds of 10 mph or out of the north by north-northwest. The roads were damp in spots, but dried out by the time the contenders for the overall took their starts.
Unsurprisingly, Cancellara set the early time to beat — 57:16 — crossing fastest at all the time checks and at the finish. Until Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-Sungard) cruised in with 57:04. Then Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) bettered his mark by two seconds.
Martin at the max
Then Martin killed it — he didn’t beat his Dauphiné time, but turned a 55:33, nearly 90 seconds better than De Gendt.
Defending champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) had a rough beginning to his time trial, popping one shoe out of its pedal and wobbling down the start ramp. But he recovered to post the second fastest time of the day (20:33) at the first checkpoint, at 15km.
Not so former yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), who rolled almost casually out of the start house, to huge cheers.
Evans got off to a solid, speedy start and quickly set about taking back time on the Schleck brothers, tying Contador for the No. 2 spot at the first time check and moving into a virtual second place on GC ahead of Fränk Schleck. Brother Andy seemed less than comfortable on his bike, particularly on the descents, and he had already conceded 36 seconds of his 57-second lead to Evans at the first time check.
Soon Evans was the leader on the road as he climbed toward the second time check, roaring through second fastest at 40:33, just seven seconds slower than Martin. Andy Schleck was losing bags of time — he hit that second checkpoint in 42:15.
At the finish, Contador hit the line in 56:39, bumping De Gendt from the second-place spot on the stage and moving into third overall.
Evans was second fastest at the third checkpoint, rocketing through in 49:55.
Voeckler hit the finish in 57:47, defending his fourth-place position on GC. Almost immediately Evans followed in 55:40 — he didn’t displace Martin, but bumped Contador down into third on the day.
That left only the Schleck brothers on course. They would stay on the podium — but without the top spot.
“I’m quite disappointed because I wanted to win this Tour but I’m still only 26 and I will be back to win it,” said Andy Schleck, who applauded Evans’s effort. “Cadel raced the time trial of his life.”
Patrick O’Grady and Agence France Presse contributed to this report. Stay tuned for more news from stage 20 of the 2011 Tour de France.
- 1. Tony Martin, HTC-Highroad, 55:34
- 2. Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team, at 0:07
- 3. Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank-Sungard, at 1:06
- 4. Thomas De Gendt, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 1:29
- 5. Richie Porte, Saxo Bank-Sungard, at 1:30
- 1. Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team, 83:45:20
- 2. Andy Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 1:34
- 3. Frank Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 2:30
- 4. Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar, at 3:20
- 5. Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank-Sungard, at 3:57