By Gregor Brown
On the eve of beginning his Tour de France defence, Cadel Evans said today that he expects an aggressive race. According to the BMC leader, the climbs, with fewer summit finishes this year, will be raced more aggressively.
"There is more time trialling, so on paper - with less selective climbs and one less mountaintop finish - the climbs become even more important," Evans said. "I've been more concentrated on my time trialling. It maybe more important, it may win or lose the race."
Evans, the Australian to win the Tour de France, was speaking to a press pack crammed in to a room with standing room only. To help him win his second title, Evans has helpers like Michael Schär and Amaël Moinard again, but added strength for the mountains with Tejay Van Garderen.
USA's Van Garderen joined BMC from HTC-Highroad. Many experts tip him as a future Tour winner and a possible winner of this year's white jersey competition.
"We had a good team last year and I think we will be even better in the mountains thanks to Tejay," Evans added. "Sporting-wise, we have a high-level team. They are a good group, relaxed and motivated, it makes everything easier outside the race."
Evans is concentrated on the mountains because Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has dominated the time trials this year. They face 101.4 kilometres contra la montre over three weeks, so the scale may tip towards Wiggins. Evans will use Van Garderen and his helpers to try to balance or gain time in other stages.
"There are a few more unknowns in this year's race from what I can tell. It'll make it good for people watching, but hard for us racing. Luck may come into play more often," Evans continued.
"With fewer mountains [finishes], the non-time trialists have to maximise that and that's something the race will dictate when we get there."
Evans rode the Critérium du Dauphiné this month, won a stage and placed third overall behind Sky's Wiggins and Mick Rogers. The fifth road leg to Rumilly, covered the Grand Colombier climb that the Tour will use for the first time this year. Evans attacked with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and left Wiggins behind. Sky calmly reacted and pulled their move back, but may not be as fortunate in a similar situation at the Tour as the climb comes closer to the finish, 43 kilometres instead of 68.
"What happened in the racing in the Dauphiné threw up some surprises," Evans said. "I like that the Dauphiné or some other races use those climbs, it helps you prepare. That's a hard climb. With the finish line being closer in the Tour, if something happens on that climb the selection could be carried to the line. In the Tour, you have so many more people who'll be motivated to make something last to the finish line if it does happen."
Evans has shown to be a much more aggressive rider since winning his world title in Stabio, Switzerland, in 2009. If Wiggins takes a grip of the race in the first time trial in Besançon on the ninth road stage, Evans should be the first of his rivals ready to attack. He's looking forward to the challenge, having never gone head-to-head with Wiggins in a three-week tour.
"They [Sky] lifted their level, complements to them over the Joux-Plane in the Dauphiné," Evans continued. "They had four men in that nine-man move to Morzine, something we hadn't seen in cycling for a long time. We'll have to see how they perform here."
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