Conventional wisdom around these parts seem to be coalescing around the idea that *Lotto sucks as a support team and that Evans should either try to lose that shiny yellow shirt or it will soon get ripped off him.
I beg to differ.
First look again at the *Lotto team:
Think about those riders. What do they do well. Below the fold let's see how they are really a better team than it seems and how they can help Evans ride the yellow most if not all of the way into Paris.
This is now an eleven stage Tour. 10 stages really if you leave out the last stage. So think of this as Lotto has shortened the game.
We've got Wednesday's hilly stage, with a long downhill finish. Then three flatish stages. Then three mountain stages, the third of which is stupidly humongo. Then two (small) hilly stages, then the ITT. 10 stages.
We know that Evans should be dominant on the ITT. He should be able to make up a 2-3 minute deficit on anybody except maybe Menchov- more than that on most rivals.
On the mountains no one can really help him much due to his style. As we know, he's a grinder and he's probably the best in the world at it. (Maybe Levi can match him and he's not here.) Its not his nature, physically or mentally to attack like Ricco. So really he has little use/need for a teammate going up the mountains as he'll keep grinding away almost regardless of what's happening around him. Sure it would be great to have a tow from a teammate but Tour history says that the Champion always ends alone and Evans' mental makeup is copasetic with that. If he loses in the mountains it will be because he's just not good enough and no teammate would be able to change that.
But it would be of great help if his team could get him to the base of the Alps relatively fresh. That his team can do. He's got a damn good team for defending on the flats. Hoste, Van Summeren, etc.: these guys are quite strong on the flats. Even Robbie will help. They are a close match to say, Cancellara or Voigt. The Classics evidence says this. They won;t get overwhelmed. They can do what Phonak in 06 couldn't do and that is prevent breakaways from either sapping Evans' strength or making them lose the jersey on an otherwise simple stage. So Evans' team will bury themselves on the flats to keep any break down. That is why they were picked. If Evans does lose the yellow it will be by only a few seconds, tops, and there's a good chance he doesn't lose it.
That leaves the mountains & ITT where like always the yellow jersey is won or lost. But Evans will enter those stages as refreshed as he can be. It will be touch and go. We will see some spectacular racing. But if Evans loses its will be because he himself can't hold the wheels of his rivals and all Tour Champions have to pass that test. His team, meanwhile, will have done their job.
We've noticed how CSC held back until stage 10. Well Lotto is still holding back. They've let Evans natural assume a dominant position between the TT and Pyrenees. I figure they can defend in the flats (that task is right in their wheelhouse) and even, like Cancellara today, we will see one or two of them providing some good help on the mountains before the final climbs.
So now tell me how the other teams will attack Evans and what are the chances for those attacks in succeeding.