Evans committed to teammates in Ardennes classics

Tour champ pledges allegiance to Belgian teammates for the hilly classics

Photo: AFP

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LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) — Cadel Evans has eyes for another Tour de France victory, not a win in the Ardennes classics, which start Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race. Instead, Evans said Friday that he is placing his allegiance with BMC Racing teammates Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet.

Amstel Gold is “one of the classics that suits me the best and I can win it one day, but not on Sunday,” he said. “I will be a helper this time.”

The Australian joined Gilbert and Van Avermaet at a press conference in Liège two days before the Ardennes opener. The three hilly classics start with the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday and continue with Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday. Evans won Flèche Wallonne as world champion two years ago, but now his focus is on repeating his Tour de France win in July.

“There’s a race in July which is more important than this race,” he said with a grin. “It’s good to be here and to do these races. It won’t hurt to ride them; it’s not that I’m wasting my time in view of the Tour de France. But, you can draw conclusions [with Fränk and Andy Schleck] here. It’s a very different race than the one in July.”

Evans raced the Ardennes classics last in 2010. He placed 13th in Amstel Gold, won Flèche and placed fifth in Liège. Last year, he skipped the races due to a crash while training on his mountain bike. Gilbert won all three and, over the winter, joined Evans’ team.

The Aussie Tour champ reminded journalists at the Park Inn Hotel southwest of Liège what he said at the team’s training camp in January: “I will ride for Phil.”

“I’m here to help the team, that’s what I’ve already said,” Evans explained. “I will try to be there in the final to be a good helper for Phil or Greg. I know that Phil’s shape is not at 100 percent, but my shape’s the same.”

Evans gave BMC Racing its only win so far this season, a stage and overall in the Critérium International, at the end of March. Since the race, he hoped his form would improve, but a “small virus” set him back.

“I’m not bad, but if I’m good enough play a key role on Sunday,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Amstel Gold covers 256.5 kilometers and 31 climbs from Maastricht to Valkenburg. Riders climb the 1.2km Cauberg three times, including the final ramp to the finish line. Evans has only raced a maximum of 210 kilometers this year.

“If you consider Amstel Gold is 260 kilometers, then the last 50 kilometers will logically be a little difficult for me. That’s where the guys from País Vasco will play a role: Joaquím Rodríguez, Samuel Sánchez and Bauke Mollema. In the last 50K, that’s where I’ll have a difficult time.”

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