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Tour de France

Despite Dekker problem, Evans remains confident

Yellow jersey contender Cadel Evans remains upbeat despite the unwelcome news that his Silence-Lotto teammate Thomas Dekker has been ruled out of the Tour de France due to a positive doping control. Dekker, a two-time Dutch champion, was set to help Evans in this year's July 4-26 race but found out Wednesday that a sample from December 2007, kept for later re-testing, had tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO.

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By Agence France Presse

Evans says he's confident that he and his team are ready for the Tour.

Evans says he’s confident that he and his team are ready for the Tour.

Photo: Graham Watson

Yellow jersey contender Cadel Evans remains upbeat despite the unwelcome news that his Silence-Lotto teammate Thomas Dekker has been ruled out of the Tour de France due to a positive doping control.

Dekker, a two-time Dutch champion, was set to help Evans in this year’s July 4-26 race but found out Wednesday that a sample from December 2007, kept for later re-testing, had tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO.

On paper it disrupts the plans of Evans, a runner-up the past two years on the world’s biggest bike race and one of a handful of real challengers to Spaniard Carlos Sastre’s 2008 crown.

However the 32-year-old Australian put a positive spin on the incident, which means Britain’s Charly Wegelius comes in to replace the disgraced Dutchman.

“We’re here as a team to do what we can, and unfortunately this announcement changes our plans a little bit… but we have time,” Evans told reporters. “Charly Wegelius is on his way here and we’ll still concentrate on doing the best Tour we can.

“This year our team had 11 riders worthy of riding the Tour de France and of course there are only nine places. Now we’re down to 10 riders and there are still only nine places [for the Tour squad].

“Fortunately we had a team strong enough where we had that depth in numbers and we could have another good rider who we hope is going to be at his best and do the job that we need.”

Evans finished second behind Sastre last year having come second best to this year’s big favorite, Alberto Contador of Spain, in 2007.

On both occasions the support from Evans’s team, in comparison to those of Contador and Sastre, was arguably inferior although the Australian has never openly criticized his teammates.

This time around, in Belgians Jurgen Van den Broeck and Johan Vansummeren, Evans may have found the teammates who can accompany him for as long as possible in the crucial mountains stages.

However off the bike, the Silence squad is still reeling from the news of Dekker’s positive test – which dates from when he rode for his former team, Rabobank.

“I am sorry this happened, of course,” said team manager Marc Sergeant, “It’s important to remember that this occurred when he was a member of Rabobank, but it still doesn’t make the news any less disappointing.”

It is not the first time the Dutchman has courted controversy.

Indeed,Dekker’s move to Silence was in part prompted by the Rabobank team’s decision to leave him off of its Tour de France squad in 2008. The team cited “abnormal blood values” from that year’s Tour de Suisse as justification for its decision.