After yesterday’s largely-unexpected attacks, the balance of this year’s Tour shifted further in the direction of Cadel Evans, and showed that Alberto Contador isn’t out of the running just yet.

From trailing Frank Schleck by 17 seconds, the Australian goes into today’s stage four seconds ahead of the Leopard-Trek rider, and has a comfortable-looking 1-18 over Frank’s brother and team-mate Andy.

However, while Evans managed to extend his lead over Contador by three seconds, the frequent, blistering attacks from the three-time Tour winner on the Col de Manse show that the battle for yellow is far from over.

Some were saying that Evans did not need to attack in the Pyrenees because of his small time deficit to Frank in the overall standings, but the BMC rider’s desire to put time into Contador – who was just shy of two minutes in arrears before the start of the stage – perhaps highlighted two things.

First, Evans realises Contador is riding into form and second, he know he needs as much time as possible over the Spaniard before Saturday’s time trial.

Cadel Evans, Tour de France 2009, stage 18 TT

Evans during the 2009 Tour’s 40.5km time trial around Annecy, in which he posted a time of 49-44

Why? The facts are clear. Evans has only beaten Contador in two of the seven Tour time trials they’ve ridden- and not since 2007.

Saturday’s contre-la-montre around Grenoble – a 42km test that was used in this year’s Dauphiné – is around the same length as the 2009 TT in Annency (Contador put 1-14 into Evans) and last year’s penultimate-day stage from Bordeaux to Pauillac.

Twelve months ago, Evans conceded 5-14 to Contador, but was admittedly suffering from a hairline fracture in his left elbow.

Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2009, stage 18 TT

Contador on the way to his sole Tour TT stage victory to date in the 2009 race

Fading French favourite

Sadly, it does not look good for Tommy Voeckler’s chances of causing one of the biggest surprises in recent Tour history.

He has only beaten Evans once in a time trial – the aforementioned stage in the 2010 Tour – and has never finished ahead of Contador.

Nor is Frank Schleck looking like as good a bet to win the maillot jaune as he was after last Thursday’s stage to Luz Ardiden.

He has never beaten Evans or Contador in a time trial, although if Leopard-Trek decide that Andy has to play the role of super domestique in the Alps, perhaps the brothers can finally take the fight to the other favourites.

History suggests that Frank will need at least two minutes over Evans and even more of an advantage over Contador if he wants to win the race.

One statistic that isn’t so good for Evans is that he has previously lost two Tours – 2007 and 2008 – by less than a minute. Could a third sub-sixty second defeat be on the cards come Sunday?

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Voeckler living the yellow jersey dream again

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Schlecks within striking distance of Tour’s race lead

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Cavendish surprises with Tour stage win and press conference

Tour de France 2011: Teams, riders, start list

Tour de France 2011: Official start list

Tour de France 2011: Who’s riding?

Tour de France 2011: Team guide

Tour de France 2011: Stage reports

Stage 15: Cavendish takes fourth stage win in 2011 Tour

Stage 14: Vanendert surprises the favourites as Voeckler holds on

Stage 13: World champ Hushovd takes well deserved solo Tour win

Stage 12: Sanchez wins at Luz Ardiden as Frank Schleck gains on other contenders

Stage 11: Cavendish moves into green after winning in Lavaur

Stage 10: Greipel beats Cavendish in Tour stage 10 sprint

Stage nine: Sanchez conquers day of crashes and climbs

Stage eight: Costa wins first mountain stage of 2011 Tour

Stage seven: Cavendish wins but Wiggins crashes out of Tour

Stage six: Boasson Hagen takes Sky’s first Tour de France win

Stage five: Cavendish wins in Cap Frehel

Stage four: Evans edges out Contador on the Mur-de-Bretagne

Stage three: Farrar sprints to first Tour victory in Redon

Stage two: Garmin win team time trial to put Hushovd in yellow

Stage one: Gilbert blasts to victory as Tour gets off to spectacular start

Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos

Stage 15 video highlights

Stage 14 video highlights

Stage 13 video highlights

Stage 12 video highlights

Stage 11 video highlights

Video: Feeding the riders at the Tour

Stage 10 video highlights

Stage nine video highlights

Stage eight video highlights

Stage seven video highlights

Stage six video highlights

Video: Erik Zabel’s role as Cavendish’s sprint advisor

Stage five video highlights

Video: The ride of Philippe Gilbert at the Tour de France

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries

Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011 wallpaper gallery

Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011 team time trial training photo gallery by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team press conferences by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage

Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW’s text coverage schedule

Stage seven live text coverage

Tour de France 2011: Archive videos

Video: 2003 Centenary Tour

Video: Lance Armstrong retrospective

Video: Behind the scenes at the Tour

Video: Guerini’s 1999 stage win

Video: Thrills and spills at the Tour

Video: Armstrong in 1999

Video: The Indurain years

Video: Ladies of the Tour

Video: Best of bizarre



Tour de France 2011: Archive articles


1999 Tour de France stage two: Passage du Gois causes chaos

Tour de France 2011: TV schedule

British Eurosport Tour de France 2011 TV schedule

ITV4 Tour de France 2011 TV schedule

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France: The jerseys, what they are and what they mean

Potted history of the Tour de France

The closest Tours in history

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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