Australia's Cadel Evans is ready to face the Giro d'Italia next month, with the possibility to trade his world champion jersey for the famed pink jersey.
He faces his last race ahead of the Giro d'Italia this Sunday, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It is the third of three Ardennes Classics and follows his win at the Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.
The BMC Racing pro won the mid-week Belgian classic ahead of Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and two-time Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador (Astana). It was Evans' first win in the world champion's jersey and the first win of the season for BMC Racing.
"This week has been an important week for him," BMC Sports Director John Lelangue told Cycling Weekly. "This has been the last step before the Giro."
Evans races the Giro d'Italia for the first time since 2002, when he rode for Team Mapei and, as an unknown rider, took the race leader's pink jersey for one day. Since then, he has raced the Tour de France, twice finishing second.
Lelangue is impressed with Evans' progression and knows that they have done their homework for the Giro d'Italia win.
"He is progressing well, he is on a good plan and following the programme we determined at the start of the season. It was clear: Tour Down Under, Tirreno-Adriatico - he was there in both races. Then, we reconnoitred some of the Giro stages ahead of Strade Bianche.
"Almost everything is done. We started in March with the team time trial in Cuneo, the week before Strade Bianche. Then we also covered the Tuscan stages, including the Montalcino stage.
"On his own, he went and saw some mountain stages and he will go to see the last one he hasn't seen next week."
Giro goes Dutch
The 2010 Giro d'Italia starts in Amsterdam and then continues in Italy with a team time trial in Cuneo. The white gravel roads of the Montalcino and mountain stage to Monte Terminillo are the early difficulties, but the true test will be in the final week. Evans and fellow cyclists will face the Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, Mortirolo and Gavia.
Despite the difficulties, Lelangue and Evans plan to hold nothing back for the Tour de France.
"We are going to give our all for it by respect for the Giro, the Italian press, the fans and the pink jersey," Lelangue added. "If you win it or not, that is something different. Even if we know we are going to the Tour afterwards, I think we can do them both on a high level."
"My philosophy," Evans told Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, "is that certain riders should not, cannot go to the Giro as preparations for the Tour. It is a form of honesty towards the organiser and public, but also respecting yourself.
"I will race the Giro and Tour as a protagonist."
Lelangue will select Evans' eight teammates during next week's Tour of Romandy. Originally, Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio were on the team but the Italian press has linked both to the Mantova doping investigation.
"We have a clear decision in our team," continued Lelangue, "we will not race Ballan and Santambrogio until it is cleared. For the moment, we are the only one to make a clear decision. They are not suspended, but we are not selecting them. I have to wait to see..."
Lelangue faced further bad news yesterday as the UCI announced that his rider, Swiss Thomas Frei, tested positive for EPO taken in March. Frei was sixth overall at the Giro del Trentino following stage two on Wednesday, but he did not start on Thursday as he is now provisionally suspended.
Daniel Martin set to ride Giro d'Italia
Giro d'Italia 2010 unveiled: Stages
Cycling Weekly's Giro d'Italia news section
Cadel Evans: Rider Profile
2010 Giro d'Italia coverage in association with Zipvit
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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