BOULOGNE SUR MER, France (Reuters) - Cadel Evans has a simple plan to try to retain his Tour de France title - sit tight and wait for the young guns to burn themselves out.
The 35-year-old has been there and done it all but even he is finding this Tour a bit hazardous after big crashes hit stage three and led to two pullouts, Team Sky’s Kanstantsin Siutsou with a broken leg and Jose Joaquin Rojas with a fractured collarbone.
“As the races goes on a lot more guys get tired which usually makes it easier to stay at the front, funnily enough,” the Australian told a throng of reporters and autograph hunters on Tuesday after youngster Peter Sagan took another stage win.
“Everyone finds their rhythm in the race and a little bit of a pecking order gets established as well and then the serious guys stay in front,” he added, smirking to imply that by “serious guys” he meant himself.
All the talk before the world’s most famous cycling race was centered on favorite Bradley Wiggins’ bid to become the first Briton to win the event and whether having world champion sprinter Mark Cavendish with him on Team Sky was a hindrance.
Evans has been largely in the background despite scooping the coveted yellow jersey in Paris last year.
Remaining in the shadows is just how the unassuming BMC rider likes it, especially when it comes to keeping out of trouble when bodies, bikes and Tour dreams go crashing to the ground.
“It was a typical stage. There was a lot of tension all day. Every time there is a crash in the peloton you are just hoping your guys get through,” he said on France’s drizzly northern coast.
“In this next five or six days there will be a lot of nervous racing to go. I don’t know how it looks on TV but you don’t take your hand off the brake levers, put it that way.”
Evans trails overall leader Fabian Cancellara by 17 seconds while Wiggins is seven seconds behind the Swiss with two and a half weeks to go.
Editing by John Mehaffey