Looking relaxed and sounding confident as he made his final appearance in front of the press prior to the start of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans said that being the defending champion will benefit his cause over the next three weeks. "Being defending champion does make it a little bit easier. You don't have the question of doubt about whether you can win the Tour or not. We know that we can do it," said the BMC team leader.
Evans added: "Winning one Tour was great so I'm guessing that winning two would be even better. I've always tried to do the best that I can in every race that I've ridden. I am still able to win the Tour and we're doing everything that we possibly can to be the best we can at the Tour. So my motivation is still there every day. It's not waning and I think it comes from the near-misses and close calls that I've had over the last few years. Maybe I can cancel out being second twice by finishing first twice. That would be a good average."
He said his confidence has been boosted by the strength of the team he has around him, several of whom helped him to his first Tour success last year.
"I feel ready and I think that everyone here feels ready and that's particularly important… I'm very pleased with the guys we have. We had a very good team last year and I think that this year we'll be even stronger in the mountains thanks especially to Tejay [Van Garderen]. We have a good group of guys who can perform at the highest level, but who are also relaxed and ready and motivated."
Evans described Saturday's prologue as "a stage that isn't too suited to me", but also explained that he has spent more time working on his time trialling because of the likely importance of those tests during the Tour. "I have been concentrating a little bit more on time trialling this year because it may turn out to be more important in the race – it may be the difference between winning and losing," he said.
But he quickly continued: "On paper there are maybe fewer climbs or less selective climbs than last year, but that can mean that the climbs that are on the route become even more important. It could make them even harder – the race will dictate that… I think this year's race has a few more unknowns than last year. That's great for everyone watching but for those of us who are racing it might mean that luck comes into the equation a little bit more."
Asked about the rivalry that is being built up between himself and Bradley Wiggins, Evans first offered his compliments to Team Sky and Wiggins on their performances this season.
"Their results speak for themselves. They've been the best team in the week-long stage races and Brad's been the best rider. They've really lifted their level and compliments to them for their performance in the Dauphiné over the Joux Plane where they had four of the nine riders in the group in front going into Morzine, which is something we haven't seen for a long time in cycling. I've never gone head to head with Wiggins in a three-week tour and I'm guessing we'll be in for a good battle."
He added, though, that the focus on himself and Wiggins could play into the hands of others. "The more that people concentrate on one or two riders, the more it is likely to create opportunities for other riders. You have riders like Van den Broeck, as well as grand tour winners like Cobo, Valverde, Menchov. They've done it before and they can possibly do it again. It may even be the year for one of the emerging riders like Gesink, for example."