Evans looks to Tour climbs
The only factor greater than the opportunity is the rich potential for pain and suffering.
Thursday’s stage 11 of the Tour de France is a classic day in the Alps – two “HC”, or above-category climbs, a smaller ascent and then a 16km climb to the summit finish.
Riders must negotiate the famous Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer on the 148km course from Albertvile before reaching the tough haul to the finish at La Toussuire – Les Sybelles.
Defending champion Cadel Evans sees it as fertile ground for an attack or two.
He trails race leader Brad Wiggins by a minute and 53 seconds and must somehow gain time back on the British star.
“Toussuire will really be where the climbers will shine, we’ll see how someone comes around like (Jurgen) Van den Broeck, (Vincenzo) Nibali and so on.”
It is the second hilltop finish of this year’s Tour and will come four days after Evans and Wiggins tested each other on the way up to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Wiggins finished on Evans’ wheel and took the Tour’s yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
But there were perhaps signs that Evans might have the better climbing form.
“He’s like the time triallist who can climb – I was the climber that could learn to time trial,” Evans said of Wiggins.
“That type always ride at one speed, they’re better on a more consistent gradient and so on.
“That’s nothing I didn’t know, but also when you have two or three teammates there who ride at the speed you want to, it’s different (to) having to utilise and calculate how the others are going to ride.
“Maybe we should have been a bit more aggressive, but being the first hilltop finish, I have to find out truly for myself what my level is.”
Given how strongly Wiggins is riding against Evans in time trials at the moment, the Australian must use these mountain stages to maintain pressure on his opponent and try to gain back time.
If they are close, Wiggins will have the advantage of the time trial on the second-last day.
“Certainly a time trial after three weeks of racing is different to nine days of racing,” Evans said.
“But in terms of having a buffer, the best way to go into the last time trial is five minutes’ lead and then you could just cruise in and see whether you train for the Olympics or go for the stage win.
“Looking at yesterday’s results, logic would say I need a big buffer going into a long time trial.© AAP 2013