x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Leaders to watch Armstrong closely as the race heads for the hills

Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck will be among the contenders keeping their eyes glued to Lance Armstrong and his RadioShack team today.

Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck will be among the contenders keeping their eyes glued to Lance Armstrong and his RadioShack team today as the seventh stage takes the race into the Alps. The first of three days in the Alps is a 165.5km ride from Tournus in southern Burgundy to the Alpine station of Les Rousses. An already beat-up peloton will tackle five medium-sized climbs before the 14km ascent to Rousses. But hints have been dropped that the leading contenders will give even more attention to tomorrow's difficult stage to Morzine-Avoriaz.

In comparison, Stage 7 is more of an appetiser: the final climb's average gradient is just five per cent and it has been suggested that the Swiss race leader, Fabian Cancellara, who is not a climbing specialist, will emerge with the yellow jersey still on his back. Evans will be watching for attacks from Armstrong, who has time to make up on his yellow-jersey rivals after losing time on the tough Stage 3 cobblestones.

"Even in these early days people will be looking for opportunities, and there's a couple of guys on the back foot," Evans said. "I know how it is in that position; you've got to look for opportunities everywhere." Schleck came into the Tour as the main challenger to the two-time winner Alberto Contador after he finished second to him in 2009. Schleck said he will watch Armstrong as well as Contador. "Armstrong's in good form, better than people might think," he said.

* Reuters