Monday, January 30

Red-hot day three


Scorching Evans puts Armstrong in shade at Tour Down Under

ADELAIDE, Australia: World road champion Cadel Evans outshone cycling legend Lance Armstrong with a blistering ride yesterday which shook up the Tour Down Under on a red-hot day three.The home favourite absorbed 42 degree Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) heat on the killer Unley to Stirling section to finish third behind Portugal’s Manuel Cardoso and Alejandro Valverde, rising to seventh overall.

Germany’s Andre Greipel crossed 23rd to retain the ochre leader’s jersey and a 14-second advantage over Team Sky’s Greg Henderson, who also finished in the leading group.

Evans, who has stood by as seven-time Tour de France Armstrong attracts huge media and public interest, said he had surprised even his own BMC team over the 133 kilometre stage with the lung-busting finish.

“Coming in the last kilometre, it was like riding in slow-motion almost, everyone was so exhausted,” he said.

“It was a tough little race, early in the season, that changes everything around. My team are all a bit disappointed: I told them not to ride for me today, and then I came third!”

Armstrong, who came out of retirement last year and is targeting an eighth Tour de France win this year, overcame an early puncture but was clearly unsettled by the heat and “relentless” course.

“It was hot, definitely hot. It takes a toll on everybody. You see guys suffering a bit. You see the salt on everybody’s jersey and you know it’s a tough day,” he said.

“This is the day that’s never flat and also windy. Tough, tough stage… In the sprint the top guys were spread across the road, and everybody looked round and said, ‘I can’t go, I’m dead’.”

Several riders went down in an early crash, and then an optimistic five-man break was snuffed out with 20 kilometres to go during the punishing final loop around Stirling.

Greipel’s HTC-Columbia and Armstrong’s Team RadioShack lined up for the sprint but were unable to deliver as Footon-Servetto-Fuji’s Cardoso came through for a surprise stage win in his first professional race.

“I don’t think I have a chance to win overall, I have had a lot of hard days over the first couple of days of this race and I’m probably too far behind,” Cardoso said.

“But it was really important for me, it is my first pro race, first pro team, first ProTour victory for me, so it is a very important win.”

Henderson was happy just to have kept up the pressure on Greipel after an arduous day in the saddle.

“It was just a scorcher out there. Everybody was just melting,” he said.

“I held on there for as long as I could. I couldn’t sprint, I couldn’t go for the win but I still made it in first in the group so I’m pretty happy with that. I couldn’t do anything else, I was absolutely on the limit.”

The Tour Down Under, the southern hemisphere’s biggest race, is held over 800 kilometres around Adelaide with the final stage on Sunday. — AFP