MACON Jul 10 2012
Brad Wiggins will keep his Tour dream on ice, because he knows Cadel Evans' resolve remains red hot.
Wiggins took an imposing step towards becoming Great Britain's first Tour de France champion with his stage-nine time trial.
It was his first Tour stage win and came two days after he wore the event's famous yellow jersey for the first time.
More importantly, Wiggins' masterful time trial meant he put a minute and 43 seconds into Evans.
The Australian finished sixth and remains second overall, now 1:53 off the pace.
That is not disastrous, but it put Evans on the back foot and confirmed that Wiggins is the better time trial rider.
Wiggins called it "the stuff of dreams", but said the Tour win was still a long way off.
"It's never over until the fat lady sings and she hasn't entered the building yet," he said.
"This race is far from over. Cadel is an absolute fighter and I'm taking it one day at a time and not get carried away with the emotions.
"I'm only human, I'm not a machine ... things can go wrong."
For his part, Evans was far from crushed after the time trial.
Asked about his outlook, the Australian replied: "Same as always - fight to the end and don't give up."
But Evans knows if their margin is close going into the time trial on the second-last day, Wiggins should win the Tour.
A year ago, Evans had exactly the same advantage when he withstood attacks in the mountains from Andy and Frank Schleck.
He blitzed them in the time trial and rode into Paris the next day as Australia's first Tour champion.
Evans is outnumbered again, with Wiggins' Sky teammate and compatriot Chris Froome finishing second in the time trial and improving to third overall.
But the fact that so many other contenders have fallen even further off the pace means plenty of potential allies for Evans in the mountains.
If anyone else is to win this Tour, they must try to crack Wiggins.
Evans and Wiggins' other rivals have their first opportunity to do that on Wednesday in stage 10, a 194.5km route from Macon to Bellegarde-sur Valserine.
That features the brutish Col du Grand Colombier, a 17km "HC", or above category, climb.
Then comes another category-three climb and a downhill run to the finish, so any contender who loses time on the Colombier might be able to chase down the leaders.
By Roger Vaughan - AAP
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