Cadel Evans explained on Tuesday that early season success in Tirreno-Adriatico or in Paris-Nice is rare for a Tour de France winner. The Australian Tour winner commented in central Italy on Bradley Wiggins' yellow jersey ride in France.
"Bradley had some bad luck in the rain, but it went his way and now he's in a commanding position," Evans said in a press conference. "You also have to consider what sort of preparation he's done in the winter. Of course, you always need to look after yourself over the winter and towards the Tour, but you don't want to be fatigued."
The 35-year-old Australian of BMC Racing became the first cyclist last year to win Tirreno-Adriatico in March and go on to win the Tour de France in July. Before Alberto Contador in 2007, Eddy Merckx was the last to win Paris-Nice and the Tour in the same year, in 1971. Contador did it again in 2010, but both he and Floyd Landis (Paris-Nice winner in 2006) were stripped of their Tour wins for doping.
Wiggins nearly took the Paris-Nice lead on day one. Rain hampered his performance and saw him finish one second back in the opening time trial. Sky helped him gain the lead on the second leg. Yesterday, he defended it, though Alejandro Valverde moved closer, at 20 seconds, with a stage win and bonus seconds.
"If you look back at the traditional performers of the Tour de France, not many of them have performed ever in February, March or April. Contador is probably the only exception, and then I won in Tirreno and again in July last year," Evans continued.
"Cycling's changing a little bit, it's getting a little less specialised. Things turned out well for me, Tirreno went better than I expected and things just fell into place."
Evans starts Tirreno-Adriatico as defending champion. As with last year, it begins and ends with a time trial. Today's team time trial covers 16.9 kilometres. Mark Cavendish (Sky) and the others sprinters will have their chance on Thursday and on Friday. Then the climbing starts.
"I am not going to ask for the team's all because I don't know where I stand against my rivals. We will take it day-by-day to see who's going well, thinking about the classification towards the end," Evans explained. "The climbs are longer compared to last year and will suit the climbers. This is how it is on paper, but then we will see when we race."
He said that Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) are direct rivals. Wiggins faces Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) and, of course, Valverde (Movistar) in Paris-Nice. The race ends on Sunday in Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday along Italy's east coast - both leave three and a half months to the Tour de France.
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