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At nearly 37, Evans to focus on Giro d’Italia in 2014 — not retirement

This season, the Australian will miss his first Tour de France since his 2005 Tour debut

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) — Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) turns 37 on February 14, but he says retirement is not on his mind.

The man billed as Australia’s greatest cyclist intends to wait until after this year’s Giro d’Italia before considering the next step in his career.

“I’m trying not to [think about retirement] — I’d like to do a good Giro and then use that as an indicator for the future,” Evans said Monday on the eve of the start to the Santos Tour Down Under.

“My main thing is to get back to my top level, whether that’s 2011 level or even one or two percent less.”

He added he would make an assessment on his future based on that.

“I wouldn’t want to retire early, thinking six months down the track, ‘I think I could be at the front, beating those guys,'” the 2011 Tour de France champion said.

“You don’t want to cut yourself short, but of course you don’t want to be trying to squeeze out any more than what is actually there.”

Evans, who also won the 2009 world road championship, will miss the Tour de France this year for the first time since his 2005 Tour debut. Tejay van Garderen will lead BMC’s charge at the grand tour.

And he admitted he could have already raced his last Tour de France.

“It’s possible,” he said.

He struggled to reach top form in 2012 after an illness, and he finished seventh in his Tour title defense.

The Australian started last season slowly as well and although changes to BMC’s racing program saw Evans take third place at the Giro, he slumped to 39th in France.

This year, he’s following advice to focus on Italy.

“That’s probably a good thing, because I’m probably too emotionally attached to these things sometimes to make rational decisions,” he said.

A second-place finish at last week’s Australian road championships suggested Evans is finally back on track after two frustrating seasons. But the star attraction at the Tour Down Under said he was disappointed to come in behind Orica-GreenEdge star Simon Gerrans.

“Coming second is actually a good kick in the bum sometimes,” Evans said. “I’ve had a long career — it motivates you.”

Evans, Gerrans, and Sky rider Richie Porte, who finished third at nationals, are the three Australians to beat at the Tour Down Under, the season opening UCI WorldTour event

The organizers declared Monday that the Tour Down Under would start Tuesday as planned after a bush fire in the Barossa Valley was brought under control.