Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is still the same at the start of the 100th Tour de France: an underdog.
"It's two years since I won, but no one is here talking about me," Evans said on the eve of the race in a press conference today. "The lack of attention leaves me free to do my job."
Evans, whether true or not, believes no one considers him and everyone is ignoring him, or at least they only focus on his younger team-mate, Tejay van Garderen and Sky rivals.
The 36-year-old Aussie appears to thrive on his underdog status. This year, when returning from a virus that whipped out his 2012 season, he reminded journalists that he is still the team captain and not van Garderen.
He proved as much when he raced for the Giro d'Italia overall with little preparation. He threatened for second overall, lost a little time in the snowy Tre Cime di Lavaredo moutaintop finish, but maintained third just behind Rigoberto Urán (Sky).
Still, he prefers to maintain his underdog status.
Even after he won the 2011 Tour, he said, "Everyone doubted me and didn't care to know me in 2008."
Evans struggled with teams T-Mobile and Lotto, and only found his feet in newly created BMC Racing team in 2010. He won the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race and wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. In 2011, he returned to win, but he remained, at least in his own eyes, an underdog.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) overshadowed Evans ahead of last year's Tour de France. He won most of his pre-Tour warm-up events and gathered most of the headlines ahead of the race. Evans struggled.
Only after the Tour, did the Australian realise that he was suffering through 2012 with a virus. Over the winter, he had two months off his bike to recover and passed nearly six months without racing.
Had it not been for the Giro d'Italia, he would truly be an underdog for this year's win. He started the Italian Grand Tour to race himself into form for the Tour and pulled off an astonishing third overall. Had he won, he would have been the race's oldest winner, surpassing Fiorenzo Magni.
"It's the second time that I've done the Giro/Tour double," Evans said today in a press conference.
"You usually don't change from a good plan, but that virus changed a lot... My training was different after the race, with focus on recovery [instead of racing]. I come into this Tour feeling a lot fresher."
Rest easy, Evans is an underdog, but so is everyone else - Alberto Contador, Ryder Hesjedal, Joaquím Rodríguez... behind Sky's Chris Froome and Richie Porte. Evans stands in line to earn himself a fourth podium spot and perhaps a second win. Even still, he would stay Evans the Underdog.
Tour de France 2013: Related links
Tour de France 2013: Who will win?
Tour de France 2013: The Big Preview
Tour de France 2013: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Tour de France 2013 team tracker
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