“I haven’t given up on winning the Tour,” Evans told L’Équipe. “I still believe in it, but perhaps the rest of the world doesn’t.”
Evans has twice finished second at the Tour, in 2007 and 2008, missing out by less than a minute on each occasion. In 2010, he lost the yellow jersey after suffering a fractured elbow.
“I just need a little bit of the luck that was missing in 2008 and last year,” Evans said.
Evans acknowledged that the Tour will be raced differently according to whether Alberto Contador is present, but his own ambitions will remain unchanged regardless of the circumstances.
Contador was cleared by his national federation after testing positive for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour, but the UCI and WADA have appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“With or without Contador, the race won’t have the same appearance,” he said. “But I don’t have a preferred scenario: mentally, I’m prepared to face all situations.”
While Evans was widely perceived to have blossomed during his spell in the rainbow jersey last year, the Australian insisted that he had always been an aggressive rider.
“One day, somebody says you’re an eternal loser in a newspaper, a rider who’s always on the defensive, and this opinion gains weight and gains weight in an irrational manner,” Evans said. “People see what they want to see. Then opinion turns around suddenly because of a jersey. But I know what kind of rider I’ve always been. The rainbow jersey just showed what I am deep down.”
Continuing without Sassi
Evans is currently in Switzerland competing at the Tour de Romandie, as he continues his build-up to July. The Australian has fewer racing days on his pre-Tour calendar than in previous years, as he looks to arrive fresh at the centrepiece of his season.
Another huge difference in Evans’ 2011 preparation is the absence of his mentor and friend, the late Aldo Sassi. While Evans continues to train at the Mapei Centre in Castellanza under the stewardship of Andrea Morelli, he paid tribute to Sassi, who lost his battle with cancer in December.
“There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him,” Evans told L’Équipe. “I only found out by chance that he was ill. During Tirreno-Adriatico in 2010, I called the Mapei Centre, and I found out from the secretary that he had been hospitalised.”
In spite of his illness, Sassi continued to play an active part in Evans’ build-up to last year’s Giro d’Italia. “He dedicated the last moments of his life to me, and it was a bizarre feeling, especially with regard to his loved ones, his three sons,” Evans said.
“In the most difficult moments of my career, when I’d lost the confidence of my teammates, Aldo was always there behind me, supporting me. I’ll always remember the intensity of our embrace behind the podium when I became world champion.”