Cadel Evans upbeat as Tour de France redemption bid begins

Cadel Evans looked decidedly less upbeat and confident the day before he begins his bid to relaunch his Tour de France career after a disappointing performance in 2009.

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Cadel Evans looked decidedly less upbeat and confident the day before he begins his bid to relaunch his Tour de France career after a disappointing performance in 2009.

However the Australian insists that his forgettable experience at last year’s Tour is well behind him — and he is in Rotterdam  determined to compete with the best for the race’s coveted yellow jersey.

“My goal here is the best place in the general classification as possible,” Evans said Friday. “We’ll see how the race pans out but going on indications from the Tour of Switzerland (in June) myself and other team members are coming into the race on good form at the right time. I have the highest expectations for myself, but I suppose we will see in three weeks’ time.”

Evans, who finished runner-up in both 2007 and 2008, had a disastrous Tour campaign last year with his former team Silence. However the Aussie made amends in spectacular fashion by coming out of the Tour of Spain, where he finished a commendable third overall, and to win Australia’s first-ever world road race title in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Since then Evans has switched teams, to the American/Swiss outfit BMC, and gone on to honor the rainbow jersey, winning the Flechè Wallonne semi-classic before performing well at the Giro d’Italia in May and June.

Evans will wear the coveted rainbow jersey at this year’s Tour, although it will be the first time he takes on the challenge after competing in the three-week Italian race.

He admits it could be risky, but believes what counts is the fact he has kept some powder dry for the Tour, and recovered well in between both races.

Having competed in last year’s Tour of Spain, Evans is also convinced of his abilities to tackle two major Tours in one season.

“It is a bit of an experiment, and it’s a little bit risky,” he said. “But I’ve come into the Tour with 40 days racing, the same as last year. And I’ve had more time to rest between the Giro and the Tour than I normally would have. And also doing the Vuelta (Tour of Spain) last year proved I could do two major Tours in one season.”

Defending champion Alberto Contador of Astana, who famously beat Evans to the 2007 yellow jersey by just 23 seconds, starts this year’s 97th edition as the big favorite ahead of Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck, who was runner-up last year when Evans finished 30th.

Evans, 33, finds himself among a 10-or-so strong bunch ranked just behind, which includes among others seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins, Andreas Kloden, Christian Vande Velde and Denis Menchov.

It is set to be a wide open race this year, and Evans believes the density in competition can only boost his chances.

“On this year’s Tour there’s so many riders capable of being on the podium, or maybe even going for the win and they’re all on different teams,” he said.

“That makes it so much more interesting for everyone, I think. For me personally, there’s more teams that will want to attack and that makes it more open. It suits me better.

“With more teams looking to wear down more teams, it’s going to make it a more interesting race.”

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