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LEON, Spain (VN) — Cadel Evans says he’s expecting to be back on top of his game in 2013, and that means he’s expecting full support from everyone at BMC Racing going into next season’s major goals.
The 35-year-old Evans will be counting on Tejay van Garderen to slip back into his role as top lieutenant, despite the American’s breakthrough 2012 Tour de France that included fifth overall — two positions higher than Evans — as well as the best young rider’s jersey.
“The most important thing for me is to return to good health and then see whether I can return to my normal level,” said the 2011 Tour de France champion. “It’s important that we work together and do what’s best for the team. Tejay will be ambitious and maybe he will want more than the white jersey. That’s ok if we all work together.”
Both Evans and van Garderen say there is no bad blood within the team structure following the unfolding events during this year’s Tour, when Evans faltered and van Garderen was allowed to ride his own race.
Van Garderen’s result was confirmation that he’s a man for the future, but Evans insists that he is still the man for the here and now. Plagued by health issues for much of 2012, Evans says he’s confident he can return to his trademark consistency for next year’s Tour.
“I am taking the Tour one at a time at this point, but I’d like to think I’d have two more good Tours in me,” he said. “Normally, things should come back. I feel much more comfortable with this Tour for 2013; it’s a good mix of stages. I am excited to work toward July.”
The Aussie seemed a step off his top form for much of 2012. He won Critérium International, the 2.HC race on the island of Corsica that plays host to next year’s Tour start, but fever prompted his early departure from the spring classics.
When he bounced back to win a stage and take third at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, everything seemed on track for the Tour, a feeling he reinforced by hanging close in the opening week against Sky’s ever-growing dominance. However, when Evans lost time in the first time trial, and again faltered in the opening climbing stages in the Alps, BMC management cut van Garderen loose to chase his own luck.
The American answered, riding to an impressive fifth in just his second Tour, while Evans continued to struggle to end up seventh overall on a course that, on paper at least, favored him in his defense of the yellow jersey.
Van Garderen, a full decade younger than Evans, says he has no illusions about what’s in store for next season. If Evans arrives back in top form, he promises to be there to help the team’s interests.
“Cadel is still the team captain. I have a few years more to learn and gain experience and we can try to win the Tour again with Cadel,” said van Garderen, who will still be eligible for the white jersey in 2013. “I didn’t have any pressure (in 2012) and I just stepped into the role based on the events. When Cadel started to struggle, I just stepped into the role. I had no expectations at all on me.”
After struggling through the Tour, Evans later skipped the Olympic time trial and withdrew from the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado before pulling the plug on his season in September.
Speaking during the Tour de France presentation in Paris last month, Evans said he’s hopeful he can regain his place as one of the top Tour contenders on next year’s historic and challenging course that celebrates the Tour’s centenary.
“It’s an interesting course, a hard course. When I am back at my level, I should be right there fighting for the win,” Evans said. “The most important thing is that we work together as a team and that I can get back my health. That’s my main objective right now.”
Concerning the ongoing fallout from the Armstrong Affair, Evans said it’s important that cycling turn the page on its sordid history.
Evans was just beginning his rise toward Tour success during the tail end of the Armstrong era. The Australian said there’s been a major change within the peloton since those days.
“From someone who rides in the front group, I can say there is a big change,” Evans said. “Compliments to USADA and all those investigators. I was there behind, trying to follow in 2005. I think if anyone should be disappointed, it should be myself, but these things cause change. We can move forward for the better.”
Evans, who worked with Aldo Sassi at the Mapei Center until the Italian trainer died in 2010, said that what happened during the Armstrong era poses little resemblance to today’s peloton.
“These things happened years and years ago… the things we’ve been talking about are seven to 13 years ago, and things have changed a lot since then,” he said. “It’s changed in every way. It’s the mentality in the teams, that’s what’s really caused the changes. That’s what needed to change from the years before. The races are still hard, I can tell you that.”