2011 Tour champion Evans happy to be off the radar

The winner of the 2011 Tour de France says he's content with being out of the spotlight as the Tour prepares to get under way

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PORTO VECCHIO, France (AFP) — Australia’s Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) said on Friday that he was happy being out of the limelight as he comes into this year’s Tour de France looking to win the race for the second time in three years.

The 36-year-old won the yellow jersey in 2011 before struggles with a virus prevented him from mounting a challenge to Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins (Sky) a year ago.

Wiggins is missing from the 100th edition of the sport’s most famous race, while Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is also absent.

But few people are talking up the chances of Evans, with Chris Froome (Sky) the favorite in the eyes of most.

That suits Evans just fine.

“In the two years since I won, everyone seems to have forgotten about me as a Tour rider,” Evans told a news conference in Porto Vecchio, the venue for Saturday’s Grand Depart. “We have prepared well but most of the focus is on other riders, which is fine by me. That leaves me to do my job.”

Evans would become the oldest winner of the Tour de France if he can get the better of Froome, but he believes the nature of the route will favor the Sky star.

“Last year, we had a particular Tour course. There were not as many mountaintop finishes and then the number of time trials was increased, which suited Bradley Wiggin’s characteristics almost perfectly,” he said. “This year there will be a lot more hilltop finishes, the time trials will be hillier, and that will suit Froome better.”

If Evans does fall into trouble at any point during what will be a particularly grueling three-week race, with three stages in the Alps immediately preceding the Tour’s habitual finish in Paris, BMC has a trump card in American Tejay van Garderen.

The 24-year-old won the white jersey for best young rider at last year’s Tour de France and looks set for a big future.

However, he insisted that all his efforts will be channeled into helping Evans in his push for victory.

“The first goal is to get Cadel on to the podium or the win,” he said. “Part of that strategy is that we maybe have an extra card to play to attack Sky or [Alberto] Contador.

“That strategy only really works if you have two contenders for the general classification, but that is not the immediate goal. If we have a guy capable of winning this race it’s going to be him and not me.”

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