x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Real test of Evans title hopes

Cadel Evans will be going for damage limitation in the remaining two Alpine stages today and tomorrow.

The Australian Cadel Evans prepares for another stage at the Tour de France.
The Australian Cadel Evans prepares for another stage at the Tour de France.

CUNEO // Cadel Evans will be going for damage limitation in the remaining two Alpine stages today and tomorrow. The Australian showed serious cracks in his bid to become the first antipodean Tour winner on the climb to Prato Nevoso two days ago and, in the end, did well to find himself just eight seconds off the lead. He has never really been one to attack on the climbs and so is unlikely to fly clear of his rivals from Cuneo to Jausiers today.

In addition, no one knows how much he is still hurting from his earlier crash or how well he has recovered from the rest day except the rider himself. One plus point for when the race flattens out is the penultimate stage time trial. Evans is the strongest time-trialler of the leading contenders and will almost certainly fain back some time on the Tour leader Frank Schleck. However, Evans is not so good he can afford to lose great slices of time, particularly to Denis Menchov, the Russian who would have made even greater in-roads over the leaders had he not fallen on Sunday.

In the opening time trial in Cholet, he was a mere seven seconds slower than Evans and Menchov's team manager Erik Breukink warned on the rest day: "Denis can't wait to get back on the bike and attack." It could be a long two days in the saddle for Evans. @Email:sports@thenational.ae TV: Dubai Sports, today 3pm