Suddenly the Tour is looking like a race. It would be unfair to say that Evans cracked as he lost the yellow to CSC's Frank Schleck, but he did at least have that dreaded "bad day" in the mountains that tend to define most Tours.
Simon Gerrans, the young Aussie on Credit Agricole, won the stage today after spending nearly the entire day in a small four-man break that also had Garmin-Chipotle's Danny Pate. Pate rode an incredible Giro as well, so his Tour performance is even more impressive for a rider who had never ridden a Grand Tour before. He finished the day in third place behind the impressive and deserving Gerrans and made the sponsors proud- I hope. Christian Vande Velde also rode very well today, slipping a few spots down to 5th overall (:39 down overall) and 10th on the stage- 3 spots ahead of Evans.
The climbs into Italy today were impressive and the break rode valiantly to stay away to the finish line as the GC battle raged on the slopes below them. Evans was isolated and surrounded by 3 CSC riders- all punishing Evans at every chance. Silence-Lotto left their leader vulnerable and in trouble today, proving the concerns that many have had for Evans. Not being a dominating rider himself, he needs a strong team to support him and Silence-Lotto proved today to not be that team. I'm sure the conversations on the team bus were less than joyous. However, now the pressure to defend yellow is on the shoulders of CSC and maybe now Evans can enjoy the view from behind their train for a bit. None of the three CSC riders can really TT very well and Evans has beaten each of the three handily in TT's before. This is far from a done deal and Evans can still think of yellow in Paris. But he's got competition and will certainly have to fight for it. Conveniently, Garmin-Chipotle is looking very good for a podium at least with Vande Velde, if he stays strong in the coming mountains. He is the superior TT rider of the main contenders at this point and looks very good so far. Could he even be a possible yellow jersey wearer by Paris?
Tomorrow is the 2nd and last rest day for the riders and I am sure there are some tired and thankful legs. Tuesday is another day of big climbs with two huge Haute Categorie climbs to deal with. Thankfully, for the GC contenders, the finish is after a 24km descent that should allow for some regrouping of the favorites... but those high speed descents have "put paid" to many a Tour. If it is once again wet and slippery, the real drama of the day could come on the treacherous descents- just ask Oscar Pereiro who crashed out of the race today after going over a guard rail and down the embankment to the road below.
Here's to an exciting (and drug free) day tomorrow!