By Hedwig Kröner
Tour de France favourite Cadel Evans placed a very good sixth behind prologue winner Levi Leipheimer (Astana) in Avignon on Sunday. The Silence-Lotto leader was satisfied with his ride following the uncertainties resulting from his knee tendonitis during May. "I'm happy for now," he said. "It looks like I haven't been affected by my interruption in my lead-up to the Tour."
Evans' last race before the Dauphiné was the Belgian Classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished seventh. The Australian had a very successful Spring campaign in which he won the Settimana Coppi e Bartali, the Mont Ventoux stage in Paris-Nice as well as a stage in the Ruta del Sol. But then he suffered tendonitis at the end of his training camp in the Sierra Nevada and admitted to Cyclingnews that he wasn't sure about his current form.
"I'm back here at the Dauphiné to test myself and prepare for the Tour, like every year. There's no difference to other years," Evans said before tackling the 5.6-kilometre course. "But because of the tendonitis, I'm still not at a hundred percent. It's healed completely, I think, and hopefully I'll be fine to race. There's no pain anymore. But there's also this interruption in my build-up to the Tour, which was a bit worrying. But I'll do what I can to get better and now we'll see what level I'm at and how it goes towards the Tour."
Now, Evans faces two rolling stages towards the Alps, one time trial and four hard mountain stages to determine where exactly he stands compared to his rivals. These include Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who also counts amongst the favourites for the July Grand Tour. The Dauphiné Libéré finishes in Grenoble next Sunday, June 15.