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Le Tour Stage 7, Brioude - Aurillac... LIVE!

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Exhibit A re. the value of a good team. Alejandro Valverde hung in there gamely and even gave it a go at the end of yesterday's stage, but in retrospect I believe him when he says he's suffered a bit from his crash on Wednesday, at least in the short run. Aches and pains, skin loss and the energy directed toward healing, poor sleep: all things that can get in the way of a professional bike race. In short, Valverde may well have been vulnerable on stage 6, and stage 7 is looking no less dangerous for him.

But when the deal went down Thursday it was Valverde finishing ahead of Evans, and never in any real trouble. Valverde has a great team, and they took control of the race when their captain needed them to. Evans, who still doesn't seem to have any major support, followed wheels. Even Saunier Duval had more influence on the race than Silence-Lotto.

Had the situation been reversed and Evans been in charge of a top Tour squadra, he could have unleashed their collective power and pressured Valverde, probing him for any sign of weakness... and on locating it, put the hammer down and inflicted irretrievable time losses on his top rival. Imagine Hinault or Anquetil or even Armstrong knowing their rival wasn't feeling so hot. Champions exploit their rivals' vulnerabilities, ruthlessly.

But Evans has no help, and can only follow wheels and wait for a day when he controls his destiny. Like the final time trial. Anyway, today should be a curious stage indeed. Enjoy!