SATILLIEU, France (VN) — Cadel Evans heads into his Tour de France title defense with a small collection of wins in 2012 compared to top rival Bradley Wiggins. BMC Racing’s Australian leader, however, says he feels fresh and is hungry for a repeat win.
“Am I hungry? Yeah. Can I win two? Yeah, I think I can,” said Evans. “Hopefully, we’ll have no bad luck and the rest, we can take care of it.”
Evans met with VeloNews and a few other journalists in a team hotel at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month. He explained that last year’s win came via a combination of strength and not having bad luck. After battling from behind in the race’s closing weekend, he won in Paris by 1:34 over Andy Schleck. Brother Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) placed third.
It was a welcome win in the eyes of the journalists gathered around Evans that warm night in BMC’s hotel. They’d seen him rise through the ranks at Telekom and nearly win the Tour riding for Belgium’s Lotto team.
Twice he placed second, but Evans was no stranger to bad luck. In 2007, he was caught behind the Alberto Contador/Michael Rasmussen battle in the Spaniard’s first Tour win. In 2008, he lost a surprise heartbreaker in the final time trial to Spain’s Carlos Sastre. In 2010, Evans suffered a fractured elbow while wearing the yellow jersey and ceded almost 10 minutes in a single stage.
Last year, he came back from that disappointment to take the maillot jaune in the final time trial, one day before the race finished. The only transfer he would make in yellow during the 2011 Tour would be the one that mattered most: the charter jet ride from Grenoble to Paris.
He explained, “Coming second twice by less than a minute… What more can you do, especially when you gave it your all? What more can I do? What more can I do? You ask yourself, ‘Can I win the Tour?’ Of course, you ask yourself that until you do win it. When you do win it, then know you can. It confirmed a belief in me.”
Evans paused and looked across the table.
“As far as confidence… Instead of asking me (if I can) win the Tour, now you are asking me (if I can) win another one.”
Wiggins (Sky) is a serious contender for the 99th edition of the Tour. Evans is as well, but it’s in a new light. No longer do we look at him as the unlucky Australian in those funny YouTube videos, but as a new man. With BMC Racing, which he joined in 2010, he’s developed into a confident man. He showed it straight away with his win in the Flèche Wallonne classic and his fight in the 2010 Giro d’Italia. Last year, the bad luck that dropped him from the overall lead at the 2009 Vuelta a España left him alone and Evans shined.
“I’m not a new man, they call me an old man now!” he said. “I still live in the same house, same wife, same lifestyle, same attitude to my training and so on. Not a lot in my life changed, but everything around me changes. That sometimes makes it hard to not change yourself, but I’d say I’m pretty much the same person.”
The real question surrounding Evans is whether he can overcome a slow start to the season. He missed Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège with a sinus infection. But he missed all three of the Ardennes classics in 2011 with a quadriceps injury.
Evans won the Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Romandie stage races last year. This season, his only victories have come in the two-day Critérium International and a stage in the Dauphiné. Wiggins, on the other hand, has been unstoppable, completing a triple — Paris-Nice/Romandie/Dauphiné — that cycling had never seen. Evans, though, reckons he is fresher than the Briton, who crashed out of the Tour in 2011 with a broken collarbone in stage 7.
“We come into this year fresher. Last year, it was good to have those successes, which served us well as a team leading into the Tour,” Evans explained. “With a win in the Tour, we have the confidence that we need.
Evans appears to believe that he is stronger now as a result of his slow start — not in spite of it.
“I come in a bit fresher. … It will be important in the third week of the Tour.”