Evans now fighting for possible Tour victory

26th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PAU, France, July 26, 2007 (AFP) - The yellow jersey hopes of Australia's Cadel Evans went sky high here early Thursday only hours after race leader Michael Rasmussen was ousted from the race by his Rabobank team.

PAU, France, July 26, 2007 (AFP) - The yellow jersey hopes of Australia's Cadel Evans went sky high here early Thursday only hours after race leader Michael Rasmussen was ousted from the race by his Rabobank team.

The 33-year-old Danish climbing specialist has been at the centre of doping speculation since it was revealed last week that he missed four random controls over the past 18 months.

After a week of their suspicion being aroused, his Dutch outfit finally cracked after learning that Rasmussen had been in Italy in June, and not in Mexico, where he sometimes lives with his Mexican wife, as he had claimed.

In the wake of Rasmussen's exit, Discovery Channel's 24-year-old Spanish climber Alberto Contador, one of the few riders able to keep pace with him in the mountains, will take over the race lead.

Evans will move up to second overall, at 1min 53secs behind Contador, ahead of Saturday's decisive time trial over 55.5km from Cognac to Angouleme.

And if he manages to close the gap over a course which could suit him better than his Spanish rival he would become the first ever Australian winner of the world's biggest race.

Before Wednesday's late events Rasmussen had taken a significant step towards winning the yellow jersey after another speedy performance which gave him his second mountains stage victory of the race.

On the third and final stage in the Pyrenees, a five-climb killer which finished on the legendary Col d'Aubisque, he finished 26secs ahead of American Levi Leipheimer, 35 ahead of Contador and 43 ahead of Evans to extend his overnight lead of 2min 23sec over Contador to 3:10 ahead of Thursday's undulating 17th stage from Pau to Castelsarrasin.

However he will take no longer part in the race, and Rabobank is mulling over whether to pull the whole team out.

"It's a very complicated situation right now. The riders are discussing whether they should continue the race," said team spokesman Jacob Bergsma.

If the Dutch team decide to pull out, the Tour would go into Thursday's 17th stage from Pau to Castelsarrasin without a wearer of the yellow jersey, and in the absence of three teams who started the prologue in London on July 7.

On Wednesday France's number one team, Cofidis, pulld out of the race after it was revealed that Italian Cristian Moreni had tested positive for testosterone.

A day earlier the Astana team of pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov was thrown out of the race after Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping following his victory on stage 13's time trial in Albi.

Rasmussen's absence meanwhile means that Evans, who scored an Australian best last year by finishing fifth overall, will surely secure a podium place at the very least.

Evans finished second in the race's first time trial in Albi, won by Vinokourov but who tested positive after his victory.

In last week's time trial, which was a lot more hilly than the upcoming one, Evans was second at 1:14 behind Vinokourov.

Germany's Andreas Kloden was third at 1:39, while his Astana teammate Andrey Kashechkin was fourth at 1:44.

Contador, who is noted mainly for his climbing abilities, was seventh at 2:18 behind Vinokourov.

The flatter nature of Saturday's race may favour the Aussie star less than last week's race against the clock, but it will favour Contador even less so.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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