SATILLIEU, France (VN) — Cadel Evans says that Thursday’s time trial in the Critérium du Dauphiné will determine the overall winner in the key Tour de France tune-up race. The defending Tour champ is less certain about the three individual tests in France next month.
Evans (BMC Racing) trailed Dauphiné leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) by one second ahead of Wednesday’s intermediate stage to La Clayette. Thursday’s stage 4 ITT measures 53.5 kilometers and comes ahead of the race’s three key mountain stages. The stage 19 time trial at the Tour also runs 53.5km, but on a less hilly course than riders face on Thursday.
Confirming popular belief, Evans said Tuesday that time trials in the Tour, this year three at 101km total, could make or break a contender.
“I won’t say it won’t be won or lost in the mountains, but it certainly could be won or lost in the time trials,” Evans explained in a chat with a handful of journalists at his team’s hotel.
The Tour features more kilometers of individual time trialing than it has in nine years and double the amount of last year’s edition, which included just 42.5km.
The Critérium du Dauphiné is considered a mini-Tour with its course and competitors. Tour organizer ASO also runs the Dauphiné and the weeklong tour this year includes the Col du Grand Colombier, which will make its Tour debut next month. And, just like the Tour, Evans explained that the time trial would play a big part.
“The major contenders are closely matched in the mountains and the time trial will make the major difference here in the Dauphiné,” said Evans.
“And for the Tour, it depends on how the contenders are in the mountains to understand if the time trials will count for nearly everything or not quite everything. Of course, the Tour de France is three weeks long, so you have an extra two weeks of racing to bring out some inconsistencies and bad days compared to the Dauphiné! But, yes, for me, [the Dauphiné] looks like it is going to be won or lost in the time trials.”
In 2011, Evans lost 1:09 to Wiggins in the Dauphiné’s stage 3 Grenoble time trial and finished 1:26 behind the Brit in the final GC. The next month, and with Wiggins nursing a broken collarbone, Evans was second behind Tony Martin on the same course to take yellow on the penultimate day of the Tour de France. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won both stages.
Fast-forward a year and Evans is keeping an eye on race leader Wiggins, who already won the Paris-Nice and Tour de Romandie stage races this year. He’s also keeping an eye on Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), who lost more time today to his rivals. He now trails by over five minutes, prompting critics to wonder if he’ll be ready for the Tour.
He “likes to go in the gruppetto and take it easy in the races where he’s not in contention for the win. It’s not the way I race. But, the last few years he’s gone to the Tour, he’s been up there. So why not be up there again this year?” Evans said.
“I read the things about the Schleck brothers and [team manager Johan] Bruyneel, but I read it all with a grain of salt.”
On Monday, Evans escaped in the final kilometers and won the stage. He explained that his form is improving nicely ahead of the Tour.
“It’s going good, but if I want to win the Tour, I’ve got to be going quite a lot better,” he said. “You’ve got to be better than winning a Dauphiné to win at the Tour!
The Aussie will try to take a big step toward both on Thursday.