Saturday 7 December 2019

Evans holds on as Contador reignites challenge

Mick Cleary

There are jerseys and stages at stake in the Tour de France -- and then there are symbolic moments to be won.

On the lung-bursting, 2km uphill slog to the Mur-de-Bretagne finish, defending champion Alberto Contador ceded the stage but declared his hand.

The three-time winner, who is desperate to make up lost time, not to mention lost face, was unable to chase down the gutsy thrust for the line by 34-year-old hard-nut Australian Cadel Evans, losing out in a photo-finish after a 172.5km testing race through rain and wind.

It was a bare-knuckle scrap and Contador, who attacked initially with 1.3km to go, could not quite deliver the knockout blow.

Yet he is back in the fight, up off the canvas after taking damaging blows early in the Tour. He is not going to go quietly, subdued by scandal or adversaries. He may have been beaten on the day but his Tour has come back to life.

Others did lose a modicum of time, Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins six seconds, Andy Schleck, Contador's perennial challenger, eight seconds. Evans, self-evidently, did his cause no harm.

"It was an important day, very good for my morale," said Contador, still awaiting a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing into a failed drugs test on last year's Tour. "I've been able to reconnect."

There was no change in the overall classifications, Thor Hushovd remaining in yellow with an impressive sixth place yesterday. Evans' victory was all the more remarkable given he had a mechanical problem 20km from the finish and had to work his way through almost the entire field of 197.

Ireland's Nicolas Roche moved up six places to 27th in the overall standings as he finished 19 seconds behind Evans in 43rd. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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