SAINT-BRIEUC, France Former mountain ace Richard Virenque thinks Cadel Evans can win the Tour de France if he rides aggressively.
After Sunday's second stage of the Tour, Evans trailed overall race leader Alejandro Valverde of Spain by one second with another sprint stage to follow today and a time trial Tuesday.
The Spaniard held back as Norwegian sprint specialist Thor Hushovd won the second stage, completing the 102-mile ride in Brittany from Auray to Saint-Brieuc.
"He will be my favorite for the Tour," said Virenque, who won the King of the Mountains jersey awarded to the Tour's best climber a record seven times. "He has changed his style over the past two years."
The 31-year-old Evans, last year's Tour runner-up behind Alberto Contador of Spain, has taken more risks this year, rather than sitting back and waiting for the race to develop.
Valverde beat Evans by 39 seconds at the Dauphine Libere in June, a key tuneup race for the Tour. But Virenque thinks that is only because other teams helped out Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team.
Hushovd, who rides for the Credit Agricole team, won a Tour stage for the sixth time. He bolted from the pack with about 50 yards to go and finished in 3 hours, 45 minutes, 13 seconds.
"I knew this was a sprint that played to my strengths, but it was difficult with the wind and a little hill at the end," said Hushovd, who earned the green jersey in 2005 as the Tour's best sprinter.
Team Columbia riders Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg and Gerald Ciolek of Germany were second and third. The top U.S. finisher was George Hincapie, 23rd.