Cadel Evans (BMC) has announced he will begin his 2014 season at the Santos Tour Down Under next year. The 36-year-old former Tour de France champion announced recently that he had set his sights on a successful Giro d'Italia and would forgo the French Grand Tour. Now he has signalled his intentions to start his Giro campaign with a possible tilt at overall victory at the Australian WorldTour race.
"With my focus on the Giro d'Italia, everything comes earlier in the year," explained Evans. "There is also the team's desire to get the season off to a good start. I think with a bit harder course this year, it would be realistic to go for the overall."
Evans last raced the Santos Tour Down under in 2010 where he donned his World Champion's rainbow jersey. He went on to finish third on the third stage into Stirling and sealed sixth overall on the general classification, Evans is now looking to excite home-town crowds in a similar fashion next year.
"I haven't been able to race there since 2010 because I've always been working toward the Tour de France," continued Evans. "But with me going for the Giro, it gives me the opportunity to race in Australia at the race which has become the real season start and the meeting point for the world of cycling at the beginning of the year.
"So it will be something special, especially racing in front of a home crowd."
BMC General Manager Jim Ochowicz said that Evans would go into the race as team leader.
"The team we have chosen to support Cadel is one that he is very familiar with that includes riders who have helped him to past victories,” he said.
South Australian Tourism Minister, Leon Bignell, was enthralled with the announcement and said he expected the appearance by Evans to boost crowd numbers.
"He is synonymous with Australian road cycling and having him here will create even more interest in this fantastic international event," Mr Bignell said. "The Santos Tour Down Under provides a $43 million boost to the South Australian economy each year and Cadel's appearance will no doubt help to increase these numbers."
Race Director, Mike Turtur, was similarly enthused and highlighted that it would be the first time Evans had raced on Australian soil since he won the Tour de France in 2011.
"This will be the first time that Australian cycling fans have seen Cadel race on home soil since his historic 2011 Tour de France win," Mr Turtur said. "He's one of our greatest riders of all time, our only Tour de France winner and road World Champion. I've always admired his respect and commitment to the sport and his total commitment to suffer during races."
The Santos Tour Down Under starts on January 21 with a 135km stage from Nuriootpa to Angaston.