When you're battling for a third-place podium position in the Tour de France like Jan Ullrich and Mickael Rasmussen, you've got to watch your back too.
Australian cyclist Cadel Evans stood in 11th place overall Tuesday morning before the 112-mile stage between Mourenx and Pau, the last in the Pyrenees. But before the day was over, he had teams from Rabobank (Rasmussen), T-Mobile (Ullrich), and Gerolsteiner (Levi Leipheimer in 6th) in an all out effort to chase him down.
(The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team focused on protecting Lance Armstrong, not driving the peloton, at the end as Armstrong is confidently wearing yellow in first place.)
On the road, Evans threatened those 3rd through 6th place riders when he leapt out of a breakaway group on the horrendously steep Col d'Aubisque and gained a 6 1/2-minute advantage with about 20 miles to the finish.
In the end, the leaders group reeled him in to a 3 1/2-minute lead, but not before he jumped ahead of Floyd Landis (Phonak), Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) and Andrea Kloden (T-Mobile). Evans catapulted himself from 11th place at 12:57 behind, to 7th place at 9:29 behind.
Phonak rider Oscar Pereiro gained redemption by winning Tuesday's stage in a sprint against Evans (who drove most of the way) and two other riders. Pereiro had come in second place at the line on Sunday after a long breakaway. He had lashed out that stage's winner, George Hincapie, after the American took his wheel during the breakaway and shot past him at the end.
“I'm delighted to get this after my disappointment the other day,” Pereiro told CyclingNews after Tuesday's stage.
Evans wasn't too torqued that he had to pull the other riders along; he was primarily looking for minutes. According to the official Le Tour website:
“The other guys were interested in the stage win, but I wanted time. It’s unfortunate that I had to do so much work only for someone else to get the win, but I’m satisfied with my day. Seventh overall sounds much better than 11th.”
Pereiro and Evans and 10 other riders had all been part of a breakaway that split off early in the day's stage.
Like Rasmussen, Evans is a former mountain bike specialist. The 28-year-old won the World Cup in 1998 and 1999 and placed 9th in the 2000 Summer Olympics before turning to road cycling in 2001. Davitamon-Lotto is his fourth team; he last rode for T-Mobile, one of the teams chasing him down today.
The top 10 are:
Lance Armstrong (1, Discovery);
Ivan Basso (2, CSC) 2:46 behind;
Rasmussen (3, Rabobank) 3:09;
Ullrich (4, T-Mobile) 5:58 behind;
Francisco Mancebo (5, Illes Balears) 6:31 behind;
Levi Leipheimer (6, Gerolsteiner) 7:35 behind;
Evans (7, Davitamon-Lotto) 9:29 behind;
Floyd Landis (8, Phonak) 9:33 behind;
Alexandre Vinokourov (9, T-Mobile) 9:38 behind; and
Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) 11:47 behind.
Three US riders are still in the top 10. The places of all Americans are:
Lance Armstrong (1, Discovery);
Levi Leipheimer (6, Gerolsteiner);
Floyd Landis (8, Phonak);
Bobby Julich (17, CSC);
George Hincapie (18, Discovery);
Chris Horner (32, Saunier Duval);
Fred Rodriguez (24, Davitamon Lotto);
Guido Trenti (138, Quick.Step).