Evans hits back at Schlecks at Tour de France
Plateau De Beille, France: Cadel Evans hit back at the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank after being accused of not attacking enough to win the Tour de France.
On the third consecutive day of racing in the Pyrenees, Evans, the former two-time runner-up, remained defiant that if he is to win the elusive yellow jersey he will do it his way.
Belgium`s Jelle Vanendert won the prestigious 14th stage from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille, in the process bucking a historical trend which saw the past four stage winners go on to win the race.
Evans, who finished in a small group 46sec behind alongside French race leader Thomas Voeckler, Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Frank Schleck, remarked: "Don`t they say who wins here today is the winner of the Tour?”
"Maybe that means a breakaway (rider) is going to win the Tour."
The Australian had harsher words for the Schleck brothers.
They rode in determined fashion, trying to drop rivals with furious pace-setting tactics even before the fifth and final climb during the hardest stage in the Pyrenees.
Early on the climb the Schlecks then took turns in accelerating away from the group in a bid to drop Evans, Contador and ever-improving Italian Basso -- all of which were countered.
While Voeckler punched above his weight again to keep the yellow jersey with his 1:49 and 2:06 lead on Frank Schleck and Evans intact, Andy Schleck snatched two seconds after he escaped inside the final kilometre.
Although two-time runner-up Andy is a handful of seconds behind Evans, older brother Frank accused the Australian and Contador of wheel-watching.
"We tried several times (to attack). The only one who was a little bit interested was Ivan Basso," said Frank.
"All the others just looked at each other. Me and my brother and Basso, we tried to actually race."
When it comes to racing for the yellow jersey, tradition dictates that the rider with time to make up should attack to close his deficit.
Because of his knee pain, Contador is in survival mode.
Evans, meanwhile, is simply sticking to his gameplan.
"Everyone says no one attacks, but you have to consider also the wind, and the closeness of the racing," he said.
"The Schleck brother are there, they ride all day, they`ve got the yellow jersey to gain and they look at me to pull for them.
"I was thinking `Hang on a second, I`m not here to tow you to Paris`.
"It`s a little bit conservative racing but these stages are hard and you have to guage your efforts really carefully."
The fact Contador lost only two seconds, to Andy Schleck, will have also frustrated the brothers -- especially as the Spaniard expects the knee pain he has been suffering for the past week to improve in the coming days.
"I didn`t feel too good today but at the same time I wasn`t put into too much difficulty and that`s motivating for the stages ahead," said Contador, who won the stage here the last time it featured in 2007.
In what appeared to be a barb aimed at the Schlecks` inability to drop him with a long, incisive attack, he added: "We can`t really say it went good for me today. Good means winning.”
"I don`t like that kind of racing, which is very different to mine. For one reason or another I`m unable to race the way I want to, but I feel I`m getting better every day."
Unlike Contador, Evans is not known for launching long, decisive attacks. And it seems he isn`t about to change tactics.
"It`s always about consistency and being there every day. For me, that`s the way I approach it. Maybe I`m wrong, I`ve been second twice," he added.
"I don`t know if I`m the big winner today but I think I did okay controlling the leaders in the mountains."