Cadel Evans suffered a broken elbow last year at the Tour de France and lost by 23 seconds in 2007, but took a step forward in righting those wrongs today in Les Herbiers. He gained valuable time on his classification rivals with a last minute attack in the race’s opening leg.

“Any stage is interesting and any stage is an opportunity, that’s how I look at it,” Evans explained. “Every now and then I go okay on these hard finishes, what a better way to take advantage for time gaps.”

The Australian sat outside the bus at a stand his team BMC Racing press officer had arranged. He was pleased to talk, he’d gained 1-20 minutes on Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) and six seconds on his other rivals.

Recent years hadn’t gone well for him or seen him lose the race by seconds. Last year, he held the yellow jersey for one day, but a crash caused him to suffer and fall out of contention. Before that he’d finished second overall twice, by only 23 seconds in 2007 behind Spain’s Contador.

Contador won in 2007 and two more times in the last two years. The leg to Les Herbiers today may indicate he’s in for a rough ride this year. He lost time when he was caught behind due to a crash caused by a fan and team Astana’s Maxim Iglinsky.

Brit Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and other classification favourites were held up in the final kilometres. Some were caught behind a crash in the final three kilometres, others were distanced by Evans’ alertness and strength.

“It was so difficult to stay in position around all those roundabouts, you really had to be right in front and that’s what we focused on,” Evans added.

“It was more hectic than normal, everyone wanted to have a go today. Of course, I also want to take my changes as a GC rider for time on my rivals or a stage.”

BMC was also concerned about placing three of its men ahead so it’d have a good starting position in tomorrow’s team time trial. Evans noted the help of team-mates Marcus Burghardt, George Hincapie and Manuel Quinziato, riders who he said go well in the spring classics.

“The team kept him out of the wind, on the front,” said the team’s general manager, Jim Ochowicz.

“Every time you can make a gain is a big deal. These races are won by seconds sometimes: five seconds there, 10 here. A minute today is a lot. That’s a lot in this sport.”

Contador won the recent Giro d’Italia by storming away from his rivals on the mountains. He may hope to do the same and argue that the Tour’s classification will be completely re-written after the first high-mountain stages through the Pyrenees. The general manager of his Saxo Bank team, Bjarne Riis, in fact, warned there’s still a long way to Paris.

“We will see when we get to Paris,” Evans responded.

He said any time gained on his rivals, even in the early days of the Tour de France, is important.

“You are talking to a guy who lost the Tour by 23 seconds.”

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