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By Andrew Hood
Don’t Touch His Shoulder:
Cadel Evans might be a charming bloke away from the TV cameras, but it’s quickly becoming obvious that he doesn’t particularly enjoy the media duties that come along with the maillot jaune.
The Australian is finding time for the media. He patiently answered nearly an hour’s worth of questions on a rest-day press conference Tuesday and worked the line in post-stage comments from TV and radio behind the podium.
It seems, however, that Evans is losing his patience with the growing horde.
At a pre-Tour press conference at the team’s hotel, Evans was only half-joking when he told journalists his day “was great until you guys showed up.”
As he stepped out of the Silence-Lotto bus Wednesday morning in what’s his first day in the yellow jersey, a large gang of Australian journalists was patiently waiting for words from their star rider.
Evans only tersely answered two questions before leaving for the sign-in, saying, “I feel fine, but I think I need a break from journalists.”
Evans might not know what awaits him in the coming days if he continues to hold the yellow jersey. More than 1,000 radio, TV and print journalists are credentialed during the Tour and everyone wants an exclusive with the yellow jersey.
On Monday, however, Evans lashed out at a reporter who was tapping his injured left shoulder as he spoke to a line of journalists at the Tour’s “mixed zone.” The outburst was captured on video and has been posted on YouTube
It seems Evans is finding solace from the media storm in the stuffed lion that’s awarded daily on the post-stage podium.
Evans clutched the teddy bear during his post-race interviews Monday and even brought it with him to Tuesday’s press conference. The stuffed toy animal was dressed in the yellow jersey with sunglasses.
“It’s a pretty special teddy bear to have,” Evans said during the press conference. “I haven’t seen my wife for two weeks and I’m running pretty low on affection.”
Robbie McEwen has been assigned the role at Silence-Lotto of watching the front of the peloton in the active opening salvos as the day’s breakaways go off the front.
Under new rules introduced this year, the Tour’s course radio won’t broadcast the names and bib numbers of attacking riders in the first 50km of each stage until a gap is opened of 30 seconds. That’s supposed to give more rope to attacking riders and put more onus back on the riders to think and act independently from sport directors.
So when the day’s attacks ramped up early in Wednesday’s stage, veteran sprinter McEwen stayed near the front and radioed back to Evans and the team directors who won on the attack. McEwen would then bark out orders to riders to chase down riders who are dangerous to Evans.
“Thanks to a quick-thinking McEwen, it was a pretty stress-free day,” Evans said. “He’s our lieutenant on the road.”
First for Arvesen:
Kurt-Asle Arvesen didn’t finish second in Wednesday’s stage into Foix, but it couldn’t have been any closer. The Norwegian national champion edged Martin Elminger (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in a photo finish by the narrowest of margins and it almost looked like a tie.
The victory serves as a salve for Arvesen, 33, suffered some painful close-calls in his career. He’s finished second in three Tour stages and was second in Paris-Tours in Frederic Guesdon in 2006.
“Yes, I was really afraid it was going to happen again,” Arvesen said. “I was half-expected to see someone pass me on the line, but it didn’t happen this time. This is the biggest win of my career. I won two stages in the Giro and the under-23 world title. Winning a stage in the Tour wearing the Norwegian national jersey, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Arvesen got the green light from Team CSC-Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis and the 33-year-old took full advantage of his day of freedom. Now he’s back to worker duty.
“It’s been a hard race so far for me. I’ve done a lot of work in the first half. I’ve been at the front, keeping Carlos and Frank out of the wind,” he said. “Now I go back in the bunch to work. We’ll get them to the Alps in good shape.”
Arvesen’s win was the first stage victory for CSC-Saxo Bank and helped push the squad atop the team GC.