If Carlos Sastre is on the look out for ideas on how to unhinge Cadel Evans in Saturday's final time trial to St Amand Montrond, the Spaniard could do worse than ditch his yellow jersey, chuck his Cervelo team bike and set to work on the Australian armed with a stolen press pass and a microphone embossed with the logo of Belgian TV channel Sporza.
Three times now Evans has lost it in post-race interviews, and three times Sporza have been on hand to film his Naomi Campbell moments. It seems that a cocktail of the Belgian network's cameras and animal fur, whether fake or real, has a strange effect on "Cuddles": the first time it was someone trying to touch his Credit Lyonnais lion who awoke Evans's inner ogre:
The second it was an innocent bystander inadvertently colliding with his dog. "Stand on my dog and I'll cut your head off," trilled Cuddles, sounding very much as though he meant it:
So furry animals plus camera lenses are a no-no whenever Evans is around. Actually, make that camera lenses full stop. You thought Zinedine Zidane lost his head in the 2006 World Cup final? Ok, now check the latest addition to Cuddles's growing collection of video nasties, captured on on Tuesday evening in Jausiers by - you guessed it - Sporza:
Makes you think that Marco Materazzi got off lightly, doesn't it?
Now I don't have a problem with sportsmen spitting the dummy - give me John McEnroe and a dodgy line-call and I'm in armchair heaven:
But, you have to admit that Evans's behavior is a little curious. I know he's under pressure and I know he's here to win the Tour, but the above statements apply to half a dozen riders who somehow contrive to satisfy the media without turning all violent and threatening. Frank Schleck is one excellent example. Carlos Sastre is another. Even Denis "The Monosyllable" Menchov goes about boring us to death with a degree of grace and bonhomie.
We've been saying it in the press-room since the start of the Tour: Evans set about creating a self-fulfilling prophesy, not to mention a siege mentality, the moment he hired a bodyguard to chaperone him to and from his team-bus at stage starts and finishes. Now it's not just Serge "The Muscles From Brussels" who follows him wherever he goes, but also pandemonium. The more forcefully the fans and TV crews are kept away, the more unruly their attempts to get close to Evans become. The Australian's GC rivals, meanwhile, appear to have realized that, the more respectful they are towards the media, the more the media keeps a respectful distance from them.
None of this will matter on Saturday, of course, unless, that is, Sastre shows up on the start ramp with a video camera slung over his shoulder. Failing that, I still reckon the Spaniard might nick it, inspite of Evans's 14-0 record against him in the individual time trial.