By Nigel Wynn
Australian Cadel Evans will be assisted by a BMC Racing team of experience and power in his bid to defend last year's Tour de France title.
BMC Racing announced the nine riders that will take part in this year's Tour, which starts on Saturday June 30, on Tuesday evening. It's arguably the strongest line-up that Evans has had to support him at the Tour thus far.
"I know now that I can win it and my lead-up this year is nearly identical to what we did last year," Evans said in a team statement.
"We're bringing an even stronger team to the Tour this year and the route would seem to favour me. But the time trials will change the dynamics of the race and some of the tactics of my rivals. But like last year, I'll go to the Tour with my own plan, to ride my own race."
Evans' biggest rival at the Tour will be Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Sky), who goes into the race having won Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine.
In addition to Evans' overall hopes, Philippe Gilbert will be there to aim for individual stage wins - particularly during the race's opening stages in his homeland of Belgium.
Double 2011 Tour stage winner and 2005/2009 green jersey victor Thor Hushovd will not ride as he recovers from a recent infection.
As expected, American veteran George Hincapie will be in attendance bringing his total of Tour starts to a record-breaking 17. Last year he equalled Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk's mark of 16 starts. Hincapie has said that this will be his last Tour - and he will retire from professional cycling when the race ends.
Briton Steve Cummings will make his Tour debut for BMC - he last raced in the event in 2010 when with the Sky team. Although Cummings will provide a support role for Evans, he is also a good bet to make it into an escape group. Cummings placed a creditable 15th in last Friday's Tour de Suisse time trial showing that he has recovered well and is in good form after crashing out of the Tour of California in May.
The remainder of the team is made up of Marcus Burghardt (Germany), Amael Moinard (France), Manuel Quinziato (Italy), Michael Schar (Switzerland) and Tejay van Garderen (USA).
Burghardt, Hincapie, Moinard, Quinziato and Schar all rode with Evans last year, but the Australian will have extra firepower in the mountains with the addition of van Garderen. The 23-year-old American has himself been touted as a future Grand Tour contender, and spent a day in the King of the Mountains jersey after stage eight in last year's Tour when riding for HTC-Highroad.
Tour de France 2012 team tracker
Tour de France 2012: Coverage index
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