Cadel Evans win stage two, Criterium International 2012

Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans kicks off his Ardennes Classics campaign today in Maastricht at the Amstel Gold Race.

"The first time I raced here in 2009 ended with a crash," he said. "I know it's very dangerous with all those narrow roads and traffic islands; you have to be very careful and attentive the whole day. That's what I learnt in my first two participations."

He races the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and the final of the three, Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. In 2010 as World Champion, he won Flèche Wallonne. Last year, he had to skip the Ardennes due to a training crash.

He explained, however, that he would work for BMC Racing team-mate Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian won all three Ardennes Classics last season, which included his second consecutive Amstel Gold.

Evans added, "I know it's a tough race to win and to ride." He placed 13th in 2010. He won the Critérium International at the end of last month and hoped to be in better form now, but a virus slowed him down.

"The plan was to improve a bit after Critérium International, to let my form come on for the Ardennes and the Tour of Romandy, but I had small virus. I'm not bad, but we'll have to see if I'm good enough play a key role."

Evans came back from his training crash to win Romandy last year. He placed second to Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in the Critérium du Dauphiné and went on to win the Tour of France.

"I'm okay, I'm on schedule," he said of his Tour preparations. "If you can win so early in the season, it's good for the self confidence."

Gilbert is behind form this year after a tooth problem and changing teams, but welcomes Evans at the race.

"It's an honour to count on Cadel, even if I'm not at 100 percent," Gilbert said. "Having him is an extra motivation."

Related links

Amstel Gold Race 2012: The Big Preview

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