By Andrew Hood
Second at Flèche, the Silence-Lotto captain said a strong performance in the Ardennes classics is just an appetizer for what he hopes are better things to come in the Tour de France.
“My job is to win in July, so if I ride well Sunday, it will be a bonus,” Evans told journalists Thursday in Liège. “I wasn’t even going to come this year, but we had a little think about things looking toward País Vasco and we’ll see if we can do something. I always liked these races and wanted to do well, but there’s that other race in July and another one this summer in August.”
Evans lit up the Mur de Huy in Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne to drop everyone except a super-strong Kim Kirchen (High Road), not bad considering his form is “only 80 percent.”
The Aussie star didn’t sound too worried about expectations for Sunday’s longer Liège route, but did admit the more demanding course suits him better than the punchier Flèche.
“I don’t know what to expect Sunday. In 2005, the breakaway went early with Vinokourov and Voigt. Last year, the race was decided in the final 1.5 kilometers,” said Evans, whose best Liège result was fifth in 2005. “That’s what makes Liège such a beautiful race because you never know what’s going to happen. My favorite classic is Lombardy, but it comes at the wrong time of year for me.”
Evans said the addition of the new climb at La Roche aux Faucons (1.5km at 9.9 percent) at 241.5km will “probably eliminate a few more guys from the front group.” The team is set to ride the final 80 to 90 kilometers of the Liège route in a training ride Friday.
Evans’ strong ride at Flèche underscores his tremendous start to the 2008 season that includes four victories as well as second overall at País Vasco.
Evans said he’s “training less but better” and said his ability to race and stay competitive throughout the long racing season is linked to his start as a mountain bike racer.
“One of the big differences for me compared to others is that I started out in mountain bike racing. The season would run from Sea Otter all the way through to the worlds in September,” he said. “I’ve always had a long season. Physically, it’s an attribute of mine. I can hold a good level for a long period of time.”
As for the Tour, Evans tried to deflect questions about whether he was the top favorite for the race or whether or not he’d like to see defending champion Alberto Contador and third-place Levi Leipheimer at the start.
Either way, Evans was confident about his own chances.
“I can’t give you a written guarantee, but we’re certainly going there to win,” Evans said. “When you’re second, there’s no where else to go.”
After Liège, he’ll only race at the Dauphiné Libéré before the Tour. After that, it’s a quick trip to Beijing for a run at the Olympic gold medal. The Vuelta a España is on wait-and-see status but he confirmed he won’t be racing the world championships.
“I only have two legs,” he said. “Going for the Tour and Olympics will keep me busy enough.”
Favorites for Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Gerolsteiner: Rebellin (Ita), Wegmann, Schumacher (All)
Team Milram: Astarloa (Esp), Grivko (Ukr)
Topsport Vlaanderen: Pauwels (BEL)
Silence – Lotto: Evans (Aus), Popovych (Ukr)
Quick Step: Bettini (Ita), Barredo (Esp)
Landbouwkrediet – Tönissteiner: Cappelle (Bel)
Team CSC: F.Schleck, A.Schleck (Lux), Kroon (Hol), Sastre (ESP)
Caisse d’Epargne: Valverde, Rodriguez, Pereiro, L.L.Sanchez (Esp)
Euskaltel – Euskadi: Astarloza, Isasi (ESP)
Saunier Duval – Scott : Cobo Acebo (Esp), Ricco (Ita)
High Road: Kirchen (Lux), Boasson Hagen (Nor)
Slipstream Chipotle : Millar (Gbr)
AG2R – La Mondiale: Gadret (Fra), Nocentini (Ita), Valjavec (Slo)
Agritubel: Moreau, Bichot (Fra)
Bouygues Telecom: Pineau, Lefèvre (Fra)
Credit Agricole: Caucchioli (Ita), Gerrans (Aus), Rolland (Fra)
Cofidis Le crédit par téléphone: Moncoutié (Fra), Monfort (Bel)
Française des Jeux: Casar (Fra), Gilbert (Bel)
Barloworld: Soler (Col), Pfannberger (Aut)
Liquigas: Carlström (Fin)
Lampre: Cunego, Rigghi (Ita)
Tinkoff Credit Systems: Ignatiev (Rus)
Rabobank: T.Dekker (Hol), Freire (Esp), Gesink (Hol)
Skil-Shimano: Den Bakker (Hol), Hupond (Fra), Rooijakkers (Hol)
Cycle Collstrop: Wesemann (Sui)