METZ, France (AFP) –
Defending champion Cadel Evans says he could look to boost his victory chances in the Tour de France if he gets the chance on the race’s first summit finish on stage seven.
BMC leader Evans started Friday’s sixth stage 17 seconds off the pace of yellow jersey holder Fabian Cancellara and 10 seconds behind main rival Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky.
But although the 199 km ride from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles features less than 20km of climbing, the Australian believes the steep 5.9 km final ascension could shake up the general classification.
While the managers of both Evans and Wiggins’ teams both said they did not expect to gain by much on Saturday, Evans sees things differently.
“Normally the first mountains are a good indicator of who’s climbing well and therefore, who will be there in the other mountains,” said Evans.
“You go in not knowing who’s the best climber in the race, or who’s bad and so on. But everyone one gets in looking for that, to get an idea of how everyone’s going.
“That’s the first thing, but then it’s also an opportunity to make some time, hopefully… it’s going to be an interesting race.”
On the seventh stage last year Wiggins crashed out with a broken collarbone.
Having conceded 10 seconds to the Englishman in the opening prologue, Evans was thankful to his team for emerging unscathed from a tough and at times crash-marred week of racing.
“The team’s been incredible the whole week, to keep me safe without spending too much energy. That’s crucial. So it’s one more day of staying safe and then, of course, the first selection is going to be made.”
Wiggins’ Sky team believe the stage sufficiently tough to merit a visit earlier this year, but team principal Dave Brailsford does not expect the time gaps to be significant.
“I don’t think the climb’s long enough for a big selection,” he added.
“It’s very steep. That last little kick, we could see something happening there. But it’s not hard enough to separate the leading climbers, for example.”