Agence France Presse
World champion Cadel Evans on Sunday played down his chances of a Tour Down Under win and said he was content to play second fiddle to Lance Armstrong.
The Australian, returning to his home country’s signature race for the first time since 2005, said he did not begrudge Armstrong the enormous popularity that has eclipsed his fellow riders here.
“Lance has won seven Tours — I’ve only lost five,” he said.
Evans has kept a low profile in the race’s build-up compared to Armstrong, who has attracted intense media interest and drew some 5,000 amateur cyclists to an impromptu ride announced on Twitter.
The 32-year-old, who became Australia’s first road cycling world champion in September, said he was focused on bedding in with new team BMC and building towards the Tour de France, where he has finished second twice.
“It’s not suited for my capacities here at Tour Down Under,” Evans said. “I’m just happy to be here and get my season started and get to know my teammates. That’s probably the most important thing for me.”
Grand-tour specialists Evans and Armstrong have both eased expectations of winning the Australian race, which is held over six relatively short, flat stages and favors sprinters.
But Evans defended the course, saying a tougher layout could scare off top riders looking to ease their way into the season.
“I think part of why the Tour Down Under has been so successful is riders can come here and they can start the year off well. If it was any harder, riders wouldn’t want to come,” he said. “You would scare away good riders and better teams.”
Race director Mike Turtur also said he had no plans to change the layout of the race, which is held at the height of the Australian summer.
“I’ve got no problem whatsoever that it’s a sprinter-style race … We’re just one of those races that suits a certain type of rider,” he said. “We design the race to suit the teams and the athletic requirements at this time of year. I think we’ve got it right.”