Race of truth awaits Wiggins, Evans
CYCLING: Bradley Wiggins has played down the much-hyped importance of the two long time trials that could well decide whether he becomes Britain's first Tour de France champion.
Monday 9 July 2012, 09:04AM
"There is so much fuss made about them, but there's been another eight stages before then," Wiggins said after defending his slim race lead on the hilly eighth stage here Sunday.
"You don't win the Tour on time trials alone."
But that won't stop the Team Sky leader from trying to increase his advantage over a select group of yellow jersey rivals in a 41.5 km race against the clock on Monday.
After taking the yellow jersey for the first time on Saturday, Wiggins defended it in spite of attempts by defending champion Cadel Evans and Italian contender Vincenzo Nibali to shake him loose.
Ahead of Monday's time trial around Besancon he leads Australian rival Evans by 10sec with Nibali a further six seconds off the pace and experienced Russian Denis Menchov fourth at 54.
As one of the best time triallists in the business, most are expecting Wiggins to increase his lead over his rivals to give himself a worry-free rest day on Tuesday.
But the 32-year-old Londoner is taking nothing for granted.
"It's the race of truth, so you've got to have the legs ultimately," said Wiggins, who beat Evans in the last long time-trial held in a race at the Criterium du Dauphine last month.
"Anything's possible tomorrow. I try not to think too negatively, and just concentrate on my own race."
BMC leader Evans is no slouch in the race against the clock either, having secured his maiden Tour triumph last year with a stunning time trial performance in the penultimate stage.
And after battling with BMC through a crash-marred first week and coming up against the supremacy of Sky on Saturday, the Australian hopes an individual performance can turn things around.
"Maybe looking at tomorrow, it will be a test of truth," said Evans.
"Each with our own two legs and we'll see if there's a possibility of turning things upside down."
While both riders are accomplished time trialists, Evans may have the edge as the stage nine course is arguably more technical than Wiggins would like.
"We're confident, it's a good time trial. A little bit technical, not so rolling and not so bad as the one in the Dauphine," said BMC team manager John Lelangue.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack), a four-time world and the defending Olympic time trial champion, will start as one of the big favourites for victory.
But for Germany's Tony Martin, who succeeded Cancellara as world champion last year, it could be a struggle. He has been racing with a fractured bone (scaphoid) in his wrist since a crash earlier this week.
"I struggled with my hand on the climbs today and so I'll have to work with the mechanics tonight to try and find my optimal position (on the bike)," said the Omega-Pharma rider.
"I'll do my best, but it's not going to be easy."