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PARIS (VN) — Winning breeds confidence and Cadel Evans says he will enter next year’s Tour de France focused on winning cycling’s biggest stage race for a second consecutive year.
The BMC captain is already being heralded as the top favorite to defend his yellow jersey on a 2012 Tour course that favors time trialists over climbers, but Evans said he’s not paying much attention to the pundits who last year gave him little credit.
“I was the favorite for me in 2011 as well, but not so many people spoke of me as the favorite (in 2011). Now everyone is calling me the favorite next year,” Evans said with a laugh.
“For me, and a few other time trialists, I think it’s open for riders like (Bradley) Wiggins and (Levi) Leipheimer. (Alberto) Contador is also a favorite. In his first victory, there were over 100km of time trials in that year. There are not too many mountaintop finishes, but the mountain stages will be intense and important.”
Evans was the star attraction in Tuesday’s course presentation. Dozens of TV crews and journalists crowded around the veteran Australian who finally won the elusive yellow jersey that he’d been chasing for the better part of a decade.
Evans said he was moved when he watched a highlight film that was broadcast on a large screen inside the expansive Palais des Congrés moments ahead of the route unveiling.
“When you ride the Tour, I don’t get to see any of the race on TV, so to come here, it’s the first time I’ve seen some of those images,” Evans said. “It’s nice to be almost the star of one of the nicest film clips you see of the whole year.”
Evans admitted he hasn’t had much opportunity to savor his Tour victory. Publicity and sponsor demands have eaten up much of his time since July and now he’s already busy planning for next season.
“I haven’t had much chance to reflect on the win. It was a lot of hard work. The satisfaction of doing a good job and having the success,” Evans said. “Above all, being part of a group and having it all come together and achieving a goal in the ultimate field of our sport, that’s still something I’m coming to terms with.”
Big changes loom for BMC for next season, with the arrival of superstars Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd. More fresh firepower will come from the likes of Marco Pinotti and American talent Tejay Van Garderen.
A strong team was key to Evans’ Tour victory, especially in the first half of the Tour, which was marked by costly crashes and challenging, classics-like stages. The 2012 Tour will unfold in a similar fashion, with several hilly, potentially explosive stages on tap before the first decisive time trial and mountain stages; avoiding mishaps and time losses will prove critical.
Evans knows that balancing the needs and ambitions of Hushovd and Gilbert will be one of the major challenges of 2012. Evans will remain the team’s clear leader on GC while Hushovd and Gilbert will focus on the one-day classics. How those two major stars can slip into supporting roles for the Tour remains to be seen.
“We have to race maturely and sometimes our goals may overlap,” Evans said. “Phil is someone I’ve been with on a team before and it’s someone I look forward to racing with again. I think it’s my job to earn some points and credit with him in the Ardennes week (laughs). With Thor, we have yet to race together as teammates, but it’s a plus having three experienced, mature riders. I look forward to working with them.”
Evans says the ultimate goal for 2012 is repeating victory at the Tour and he believes he’s up for the task. His race schedule will remain largely unchanged, with a focus on one-week stage races and the Ardennes classics for early season goals before reloading with a likely start at the Dauphiné ahead of the Tour.
Despite the importance of the Olympic Games, set for London in the days following the Tour, hitting peak form in July will be his singular goal for the year.
“I will follow a similar program to this year. It’s worked well for the Tour,” Evans said. “We’ll see after the Tour. It’s interesting with London, but at this point, my part of the BMC team is repeating the result in July — for the rest, we’ll see.
“The Aussie federation wants to have me there (London). If my country wants me, I’ll certainly be there. With an Australian professional team coming into the mix, hopefully (there’s) no political problems.”