Hesitation will not win Cadel Evans a second Tour de France. Not even close. Opportunism will, writes Anthony Tan from Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Before today's tenth stage from Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, Cadel Evans had exactly six chances to steal back time over maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins.

When Vincenzo Nibali attacked on the 17.4-kilometre-long Col du Grand Colombier, its summit located 43km from the finish, Evans, for a split moment, did think about going with the move. "He (Nibali) went away and I was a little bit hesitant," he said.

Perhaps the defending Tour champ hesitated because Nibali was a further 30 seconds back at the start of the day than he. Perhaps Evans hesitated because Wiggins is arguably a more dangerous adversary than the Schlecks or Contador ever were at last year's Tour. Perhaps he hesitated because he had no teammates that could go with him, if he decided to align himself with Nibali. Or perhaps he hesitated because there are still two more mountain stages in the Alps to come, with, according to Wiggins, the hardest of those tomorrow.

Most likely it was a combination of all the above. Nonetheless, he hesitated. "Maybe it was a missed opportunity or something," Evans said.

After today's stage, there are now five opportunities left before the penultimate stage time trial, the latter on a course tailor-made for Wiggins.

When I spoke with Shane Sutton before the stage start in Mâcon, and asked the British Cycling head coach about BMC Racing's line-up that is heavy on Classics specialists, as opposed to the Team Sky coterie that is heavy on climbers, he replied: "Maybe (Evans) hasn't got the people to open us up on the climbs, like he would like to have, to put us under pressure as it were, but I'm sure he'll keep fighting to the death."

Wednesday's stage only exposed BMC Racing for their lack of climbing firepower, as his key lieutenant, Tejay van Garderen, found himself out of sorts on the final ascent of the Col de Richemond, and highlighted Sky's strength in this department, despite Michael Rogers flatting on the descent of the Colombier. "We had the bodies up there to handle the situation which was good," Sean Yates, Team Sky sport director, said.

"Sky really has the team for this course and this situation," Evans said. "So it leaves the opportunities few and far between. And with the wind and the climb that far from the finish, it was a bit difficult today."

It may be early days, though provided Wiggins suffers no untimely misfortune, increasingly, it is becoming an almost impossible task for Cadel et al to overthrow the Mod-mad lad from Kilburn.

But as Sutton and Wiggins have said ad nauseum, Evans would prefer to go down fighting than not fight at all. And if the previous short stage last Sunday to Porrentruy is anything to go by, we are in for a cracker on Thursday' 148km leg to La Toussuire. "Tomorrow, I think the attacking riders will be more rewarded. But we'll have to see how the other teams react to the race," Evans said.

"You have to make opportunities for yourself."

It is a high-risk strategy for Evans, because ultimately, such moves could quite easily cost him dearly in the final week, as he famously demonstrated in the closing time trial at the 2008 Tour.

But with great risk comes great reward. And in this sport at least and this Tour de France, there is no better place to adopt such an approach than the next few days, as the chances tick down with each kilometre ridden.

Cadel can still do it, but he must go sooner rather than later.

Time will tell whether he pulls off one of the greatest Tour comebacks in modern history, or falls into anonymity as a new champion is crowned.