Millar: Evans faces uphill battle

Australian Cadel Evans will find it hard overcoming his deficit to Tour de France race leader Alberto Contador in the race's final time trial in Angoulême on Saturday, said Britain's David Millar.

Australian Cadel Evans will find it hard overcoming his deficit to Tour de France race leader Alberto Contador in the race's final time trial in Angoulême on Saturday, said Britain's David Millar.

Spaniard Contador holds a 1min 50sec lead on Australia's Cadel Evans going into the time trial, which will decide the winner of this year's yellow jersey ahead of a largely neutral final stage on Sunday. Millar believes its profile, and the west-to-east wind blowing on the course, can only help the 24-year-old Discovery Channel team's leader to maintain his advantage.

"It's going to be hard to take time, it's a fast course," said Millar. "It's going to be hard for Cadel to take that much time back, you don't get (a chance to take) such big times gaps when there's a tailwind like that, but you never know."

Millar finished the 55.5km race against the clock on a mainly flat, wind-assisted course from Cognac to here well outside the top ten.

It was way off what he had been hoping, although the big Scot decided he would not be giving it his best after a disastrous start which had seen the tyre come off his bike twice, forcing two changes.

He initially blamed wheel producers Mavic, but Millar admitted he could not put his finger on exactly why the incidents happened.

"I've got no idea (why it happened)," he said. "The Mavic disc exploded in the first 500 metres. "I didn't give up, I went as hard as I could till the first time check and told myself that if I was inside a minute or under (the provisional leader's time) then I would keep on going but that if I was over a minute I would just shut it down (and save it) for tomorrow."

As the mechanics were delayed by the first incident, when the second one occurred moments later there was chaos to get Millar a fully-working machine.

"It's absolutely bizarre. The first one just literally exploded," added Millar. "The rim came off the carbon, they gave me my spare bike, I went off but after 300 metres that one went as well!"

Millar arrived angry, but said he would be going into Sunday's final stage happy with his campaign having come into the Tour below par. "Considering the way I came into the Tour, condition-wise, I'm glad, it's gone well. I think in a few weeks I'll be able to race at my best," he said. "Personally I've had a really good time, even though we've had all the crap (doping affairs) around it. My personal race, if I try to ignore what's gone on elsewhere, has been good."

And the Scot, who is one of the most outspoken riders against doping since completing a ban last June for EPO (erythropoietin) use, said he knew nothing of a rumoured abandoning of Sunday's final stage on the Champs Elysees to protest against this year's scandal-tainted race.

"I don't know anything about it. If we all know what we're protesting about, then fine. But in my opinion it's not the solution," he added. "There's going to be tens of thousands of people on the Champs Elysees wanting to see the race, and I think it's up to us to race up and down it. Of course we still have to show some cohesion against the people who are still doping, but we've also got to race. And if we stop on the Champs Elysees, in front of all those spectators, they're not going to understand what we're protesting about.

"I think it's best if we just get on with this race, and let the authorities and race organisers to try and bloody fix our sport."

© AFP 2007

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