2011 Tour de France Postlude
If the 2011 Tour de France had ended after Stage 9, a wag might have dubbed it the Tour de Crash.
Dauphine Libere. He won stages of Grand Tours and even wore the leader's jersey, but he was never the big winner. He was the Tour runner-up in 2007 and 2008, but he could not get over the hump. The observers said that Evans, with his defensive racing style and lack of confidence, would be another Poulidor, a man would could ride well enough to place well, perhaps well enough to earn the public's affection, but not well enough to win.
The turning point was the 2009 world road race championship in Mendrisio, Italy. At the foot of the day's final climb, Evans followed an attack by Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez with a counterattack that neither Rodriguez nor Russian Alexander Kolobnev could follow. Evans became world champion.
The months after Evans's victory showed that his world championship had given him confidence. That winter, the Aussie moved from Omega Pharma-Lotto, one of the best classics squads, to BMC, a team that was looking for someone who could ride for the general classification in Grand Tours. The marriage proved to be one made in heaven.
Another sign of Evans's confidence was his victory in the 2010 Fleche Wallonne. The Australian had one final tribulation to endure, however. In Stage 8 of the 2010 Tour de France, he crashed and suffered a hairline fracture in his right arm. Evans took the yellow jersey in that stage, but he knew that he would never be able to keep it. He lost the jersey in the following stage and finished 26th overall, more than 50 minutes behind Contador. His willingness to ride when he was injured, however, said to some that Evans had the grit to win the Tour.
The move to BMC was could not have been better for Evans. This was a squad that was built around him, with veterans such as George Hincapie, who had ridden on eight Tour-winning teams, to make sure that Evans did things such as stay in the front. These veterans and directeur sportif John Lelangue realized that Evans might need to be kept on an even keel emotionally, and they worked at doing so. Moreover, Lelangue put together a plan that would prepare Evans for the 2011 Tour.
In early 2011, Evans probably had the lightest schedule of any of the contenders. When the Tour started, the BMC man had raced only 35 days. In those 35 days, however, he made an impression. The Aussie won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Romandy. In addition, he finished second in the Dauphine Libere. By the start of the Tour, Evans had sent a message: I am ready to race.
Indeed he was, and so was his team. In Stage 2, BMC turned in a surprising runner-up finish in the team time trial. In Stage 4, Evans outfought Contador for the day's honors. In Stages 12 and 14, Evans withstood the assaults of the Schleck brothers in the Pyrenees. In Stage 16, Evans attacked and gained time on his competitors. That set up the Alpine pyrotechnics in Stages 18 and 19.
In Stage 18,