Valverde says Evan may be pulled back by his team
16 July 2008
PAU – Australian rider Cadel Evans’ grip on the Tour de France yellow jersey is likely to be undone because of the "weakness" of his Silence team, according to Spaniard Alejandro Valverde.
Valverde virtually dropped out of the running for the race’s big prize on the 10th stage from Pau to Hautacam on Monday, when Evans took the race lead by a second from Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, of CSC.
After the rest day on Tuesday, the race resumes with Wednesday’s 11th stage from Lannemezan to Foix – a climbing stage which is not too difficult and should see Evans finish the day still in the lead.
Valverde and teammate Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 champion, however have picked Russian Denis Menchov of Rabobank and Spaniard Carlos Sastre, of CSC, to pip the Australian to the yellow jersey in Paris on 27 July.
"I see Denis (Menchov) and Carlos (Sastre) as the main favourites," said Pereiro on Tuesday.
"Sastre is still in the running although he perhaps lacks that little bit extra that could make the difference between winning the Tour or not.
"I think Menchov is a little bit stronger, he’s going well. Cadel Evans’ team is relatively weak, that’s his main problem."
Valverde, who dropped to 14th in the race’s general classification 4min 41sec behind Evans after his collapse on the climb over the Col du Tourmalet, echoed his teammate.
"I think practically the same thing," said the Spaniard, who began the Tour as the co-favourite with Evans, last year’s runner-up.
"Silence and Rabobank don’t have the strongest of teams and they’re not great in the mountain stages. We can’t discount Evans, but I think Menchov and Sastre are now the big favourites, especially Menchov."
The crucial stages of the race are now the three alpine stages, which begin on 20 July, and the penultimate stage time trial, on 26 July.
[AFP / Expatica]