Evans, Wiggins set for crucial Tour duel
Defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans tried in vain to steal a few seconds from Brad Wiggins the day before their much-anticipated duel.
Wiggins continues to hold the yellow jersey by 10 seconds over Evans ahead of Monday’s 41.5km individual time trial from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon.
The time trial will give the best indication yet of who can win the Tour, with Wiggins and Evans rated the two title favourites.
Evans and Belgian contender Jurgen van den Broeck attacked Wiggins late in stage eight, a hilly 157.5km race from Belfort to Porrentruy in Switzerland, but Wiggins covered their moves.
“Opportunities don’t come (often) in this line of work, so when they come you have to grab them by the neck and go with it,” Evans said of his speculative move.
French rider Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), at 22 the youngest rider in the race, attacked by himself late in the stage for a popular win.
There were more crashes, with Australian Matt Lloyd (Lampre-ISD) going to hospital for X-rays on his elbow and last year’s sixth-placed rider Sammy Sanchez knocked out of the Tour with a broken collarbone.
Lloyd is unsure whether he will continue in the race.
There were seven categorised climbs along the stage eight route and riders continuously tried to establish breaks.
But Wiggins’ Sky team did a power of work to control the tempo and prevent any big time gaps.
Pinot eventually took the lead on the steep Col de la Croix with 16km left and won by 26 seconds.
His team manager Marc Madiot provided one of the highlights of the stage as a camera in the team car telecast his excited celebrations.
After unsuccessfully attacking on the descent from the last climb, Evans led a select group of eight riders across the line for second place and Wiggins was immediately behind him in fourth.
The Evans-Wiggins group featured Italian Vincenzo Nibali, who is third overall, Van den Broeck and Wiggins’ teammate Chris Froome.
The day after taking the Tour’s yellow jersey for the first time in his career, Wiggins is cautiously confident before the time trial.
“We’ll wait and see if I do gain ground … everyone has got to rise to the game, that’s for sure,” he said.
Evans is also happy with the state of the race and his BMC team are noting that several rivals seem more prepared to attack after they lost time in stage seven.
That should play to Evans’ advantage as he tries to counter Sky’s weight of numbers on the climbs.
He can form informal alliances against Sky with those riders.
But on Monday, it’s every Tour contender for himself.
“Tomorrow is a test of truth and each with their own two legs and the possibility of things being turned upside down – we’ll see,” Evans said.
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