DIGGING DEEP: Cadel Evans arrives prior to the start of the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 153.5 kilometres (95.4 miles) with start in Cambrai and finish in Reims, northern France. AP
DIGGING DEEP: Cadel Evans arrives prior to the start of the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 153.5 kilometres (95.4 miles) with start in Cambrai and finish in Reims, northern France. AP

Cadel closes in

DESPITE riding on one of the most dreaded Tour de France stages, Cadel Evans has performed brilliantly to be within 39 seconds of another career highlight.

Covering the infamous cobblestone course forced Evans to dig deep as he moved to third position, putting him within striking distance of grabbing the yellow jersey regained by Fabian Cancellara.

After twice finishing second in the race and coming on top of last year’s late misadventure where a team mate’s demise in the team time trials destroyed individual glory, taking control of that famous symbol of superiority has been one of the few honours denied to the Australian champion.

Other than winning the race, that is. Writing in his online tour diary, the one-time Woolgoolga High School pupil played down the aches in his shaken and rattled bones.

“A relatively stress-free day today, almost any stage would be after the last three,” Evans wrote. “Tired heads, bruised bodies, sore legs and backsides (cobbles are rough) seem to be the order of complaints at this early point in the race.”

Evans paid tribute to his closest rivals including Alessandro Petacchi who took the fourth stage with a brilliant, last-dash performance.

“In the final, the sprinters had their day through the roundabout-riddled run in, with ‘Peta’ coming up with the impressive goods again,” he said. “Nice to see reliable lead-out guy Julian Dean making use of his chance and finishing second.

“My hard man award of the Tour goes to him . . . because of his wrist injury, he rode all of yesterday one-handed.”

Last night’s 187.5km Stage 5 route was on almost completely flat country between French towns Épernay and Montargis with just two gentle climbs to trouble riders.



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