Andy Schleck. Did he underestimate Cadel Evans?
Did Andy Schleck fail to take Cadel Evans as a serious threat to victory?
Twisted Spoke doesn’t have a definitive answer to that question but can’t help but wonder. We suspect that Andy made the mistake of assuming the Tour de France was his once Alberto Contador lost time behind a week one crash and later banged up his knee.
Once his chief rival, the man who had beaten him twice to win the Tour, was out of the picture, he let down his guard. Who was going to beat him? While Ivan Basso and Samuel Sanchez would be tough in the mountains and Basso can ride a decent time trial, we don’t think Andy was worried about those two.
The question is whether he took Evans too lightly and too late in the game. Perhaps he assumed Evans would have his usual bad luck, a crash, an injury, a bad day. By the time he realized that the teeth-gritting Evans wasn’t going to go away, there was not enough time to gain more time.
The time trial and Grenoble came too soon for Andy Schleck. There seemed to be a cavalier attitude toward the Australian — strange given that the brain trust at Leopard-Trek knew exactly what Evans could do on the time trial course.
Perhaps it was the exact same case with Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler. Conventional wisdom was that he would lose the yellow jersey in the Pyrenees or at the latest, the first day in the Alps. He fought like a junkyard dog and kept it until the final ramps up Alp d’Huez. Evans seems to have benefited from being overlooked.
That kind of oversight is even more surprising given that from the first days of the Tour, Evans signaled he would be aggressive and race hard for the win. His attack against Contador on stage four’s Mur de Bretagne should have made that crystal clear.
Still, Andy and Frank seemed to smile their way into the Alps, confident that the Tour would drop in their laps. Evans and Voeckler would fade, Basso would fall back and that was that.
Cadel Evans has become a different rider since he won the world championship road race. It appears that the Brothers Schleck thought they were racing against the old Evans.
They’re looking up to him now with a new-found respect. He’s on the top step of the Tour de France and they’re not.