If anyone needed reassurance, Tuesday’s fourth stage was proof again BMC Racing has the team to deliver Cadel Evans victory at the Tour de France, writes Anthony Tan from the Mûr de Bretagne.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

If this happened one year ago, Cadel Evans may not be sitting where he is now.

The
fourth stage was not won just after the peloton passed the banner
signalling 20 kilometres to go, when some nong ran into Evans'
derailleur, requiring a quick-sticks bike change, but should his team
have been the one from the year before, or the three years before that,
he may have lost it right there.

Instead, like crucial
moments in previous days, it was his 1.89-metre-tall German team-mate,
Marcus Burghardt, who came to his aid.

A Spring Classics
specialist and driver made for the flatlands, Burghardt's raw power
proved indispensable in bringing Evans back to the peloton and back in
contention some 10km from the finish, which finished at the Mûr de
Bretagne – Brittany's Alpe d'Huez, so the locals say.

And then,
like crucial moments in previous days, it was his 1.91-metre-tall
American team-mate, George Hincapie, riding a record-equalling sixteenth
Tour de France, who took over from Burghardt to deliver Evans in
perfect position to the base of the climb.

Averaging 6.9 percent
but with its first kilometre averaging 9.8%, if Evans was not at the
head of affairs by the start of the Mûr de Bretagne, he would have
expended needless energy to get himself there – or he may not have got
there at all.

From the base of the berg, it was all up to Cadel,
who marked moves by Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Rigoberto Uran (Sky)
and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), then used Contador's
lack of race savvy – or applied his race nous, depending on how you want
to look at it – to sprint away from the Spaniard and take the win, even
though Bertie thought he'd won.

Or, perhaps more correctly, hoped.

As
if he was in school and wanted to answer the question even though he
probably knew it was wrong, Contador half-heartedly stuck up his right
hand anyway, the photo-finish later revealing he came up six inches too
short.

"It was very close. I didn't know if I had it on the line
myself," Evans later said, who has often been accused of not giving
exuberant victory salutes. Well, at least he's never saluted too soon…

Although
he is far too polite to say it, victory is often sweeter when the guy
who thinks he's won and celebrates prematurely turns out to be the first
loser – just ask Oscar Freire when he won the 2004 Milano-Sanremo,
which came at the expense and utter embarrassment of faux celebrant,
Erik Zabel.

"I still quite can't believe it," he said, moments
after his victory, where he now sits soundly in second place overall,
just a second in arrears.

'You said you felt tired coming into
last year's Tour, having ridden the Giro beforehand. Could you tell from
day one that you felt fresher this year?' I asked him at the press
conference.

"This year, we had five-to-10 days' less racing and
[were] better planned, and [we had a] better program to the Tour,
because we had our selection to the Tour [guaranteed by way of being
registered as a ProTeam].

"And I think we come here [this year]
with an even better team," said Evans, "and yeah, so far, it's been
successful. I've come close [to winning] before, so we'll see. We'll
keep working on it."

It's not a bad thing the 34-year-old didn't inherit the maillot jaune
that continues to rest on Thor Hushovd's muscled Norwegian shoulders,
the viking from Garmin-Cervélo. But with Saturday's eighth leg to Super
Besse, the first of two back-to-back stages in the medium mountains, he
could well be wearing the golden fleece sooner rather than later – which
he may chose not to keep till the Pyrenees or even the Alps.

Believe it, Cadel, believe. Because I believe in you.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan