By Jean-François Quénet in La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) was shocked to read the results of Sunday's time trial at Paris-Nice. There was nothing wrong with his 19th place, but Alberto Contador (Astana) winning and putting him 31 seconds down on the flat stage was unexpected.
"I was absolutely impressed to see such a small guy going so fast on this kind of course," said Evans.
Evans is more comfortable with the early stages of Paris-Nice these days. He knows how the race unfolds in the crosswinds and doesn't panic like he has in years past. In 2005, the year he joined Davitamon-Lotto, he lost 58 seconds in a split during stage one, before going on to finish eighth overall - 58 seconds behind the eventual winner Bobby Julich.
During stage two to La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin Evans got trapped once, but it all came back together. "It was a nervous stage with crashes and crosswinds but it went ok," he said. "I was lucky to get through.
"I came to Paris-Nice with no expectations," he added. "I might have a try in some hilly stages to check out where I'm at against the climbers who are on form early this year. I'm not quite at my best yet. I had better form for Paris-Nice last year and I've had a difficult off-season."
Evans' first concerns were to fully recover from the injuries he sustained during and after the 2008 Tour de France, with the Australian suffering both shoulder and knee injuries. With Silence-Lotto switching bike supplier from Ridley to Canyon this season, Evans came to Paris-Nice with the intention to get used to the new equipment, especially with regards to his time trial bike.
"It's still a long way to go to July," said Evans. "The Tour de France remains my main goal of the year. I still think I can win it. But if Astana shows the same form as in the early part of the season, it will be very difficult to beat them."