Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
“The Tour has been quite good for me so far, I’ve had one bad day, my legs are good and I’m confident I can actually keep this till Paris,” said Schleck after taking the race lead from Thomas Voeckler on Friday.
The 98th edition of the race finishes on Sunday when the overall contenders usually take a back seat and enjoy surviving the race while the sprinters and green jersey contenders battle it out on the Champs Elysees.
But before Schleck can do some savouring of his own, the Luxemburger has to protect a 57-second lead over Evans during a 42.5 km time trial in Grenoble on Saturday.
That test will come two days after Schleck launched an audacious attack 62km from home in the mountainous 18th stage, pulling away unchallenged halfway up the 14 km-long Col d’Izoard and going on to win the stage after the 23 km climb to the summit of the Galibier.
Schleck was also put to the test on Friday when three-time champion Alberto Contador went on the attack on the 11.9 km Col du Telegraph, and again on the final climb, a 14 km ascent to the summit of Alpe d’Huez.
When it became clear that Contador was not a threat, Schleck rode within himself and watched Evans for any attacks. In the end, he finished in the same time as the Australian to take the race lead.
Schleck now has a 53sec lead on older brother Frank, with Evans third four seconds further adrift.
In normal circumstances Evans is a stronger time triallist than both brothers and after two tough days in the mountains there are doubts about Schleck’s ability to produce one final big effort.
Asked if his long solo ride on Thursday would affect his energy reserves, Schleck said: “Okay, I did a long breakaway and used a lot of energy yesterday (Thursday), but it was the same for everybody.
“When I saw the others (riders) arriving a few minutes behind me I got the impression they were even more tired than I was. In the mountains, when you’re strong one day you can be strong the next day.”
Despite being confident, Schleck knows he might have to rely on the special motivation provided by wearing the coveted yellow jersey.
“It’s not finished yet. We know Cadel is a time trial specialist, and I’m not,” he added.
“I think I stand a chance. A time trial at the end of a three week tour is different than a time trial on any other day.
“Many riders say the yellow jersey gives you wings. I’m confident I can do well tomorrow and bring the jersey home for Luxembourg.”