France

Tour becomes two-horse race

BMC Racing's Cadel Evans of Australia cycles during the ninth stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Morzine-Avoriaz and Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne
BMC Racing's Cadel Evans of Australia cycles during the ninth stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Morzine-Avoriaz and Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne Reuters

The first time Cadel Evans of Australia wore the overall winner’s yellow jersey, he had an advantage of only one second over Frank Schlek of Luxembourg who then inherited the race lead. That was back in 2008.

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This year, it is Frank’s brother Andy who has spoiled the Australian’s party.

On yesterday’s tough Alpine mountain stage, Evans saw his lead melt away and ended the day over eight minutes behind Andy Schlek the new leader of the general classification.

Andy Schlek is now 41 seconds ahead of his main rival, two times Tour winner Alberto Contador of Spain.

So with Cadel Evans now in 18th position and eight times Tour winner Lance Armstrong of the United States in 31st place, 15 minutes behind the two main contenders, the Tour de France is now turning into a two-horse race between Schlek and Contador.

So who is the stronger of the two ? Well neither will admit that they are the stronger rider.

On Monday Contador said he was only trying to survive, while Schlek speaking after his victory on Tuesday admitted that he was sometimes stronger than Contador, sometimes weaker but hoped that when it mattered it would be a day when Contador was not on form.

What is certain however, is that this year’s Tour de France will not be decided here in the Alps, but in the Pyrenees beginning next Sunday.

That is where a ruthless fight is sure to take place between the two favourites in their fight to be on the winning podium in Paris on July 25th.

There are 31 different nationalities represented in this year’s Tour, which of course means there are less French riders than in the past.

But as the French always like a national hero to cheer along the road, a word about one other rider who shone on Tuesday, France’s Sandy Casar.

Despite the harsh conditions, particularly on the final hors category climb of the col de la Madeleine, Casar pulled off the first Tour stage win of his career.

The win, coming a day before Bastille day, France’s national holiday, Casar’s stage win will give the French supporters something to celebrate as the Tour continues its route between Chambery and Gap.

 

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