The disqualification of Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) means that Cadel Evans will start Saturday's Tour of Lombardy as the clear leader in the ProTour classification. The Australian may not have won big during the season but he has nevertheless had a very impressive campaign, as Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes reports.
When the dust settles on the 2007 season, one of the standout riders of the year will be Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans. The 30 year old Australian started stockpiling results when he placed fifth on stage five of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol in February, and has continued ever since. Of those, the standout performances are second overall in the Dauphiné Libéré in June, second in the Tour de France in July, fourth in the Vuelta a España and fifth in the world road race championships in September.
Evan's consistency means that he heads into the final ProTour event of the season with an extremely strong chance of winning. On Tuesday it was announced that series leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) had been suspended by the Italian Olympic Committee CONI for three months due to his part in the 'Oil for Drugs' investigation. Then two days later the UCI announced that he had been disqualified from the competition under one of its rules, this sanction propelling Evans into the white jersey.
Speaking to Cyclingnews prior to the news of Di Luca's suspension and subsequent disqualification, Evans said that he was fired up to do well in the Tour of Lombardy. This will continue to be the case, even if he is under a little less pressure now. "It is the most suitable one-day of the race for year for me, but unfortunately it is also the last race of the year," he stated early on Tuesday. "Considering that my other home race is the Tour Down Under, which is the first race of the year in January, that makes things difficult [in terms of riding the Australian event in 2008].
"The Tour of Lombardy is certainly the best one-day race for me but also, by that standard, the same for Di Luca and Bettini. He won there last year so when he is good, he can right up be there as well. Rebellin and Schleck are also climbing really well at the moment."
As Evans showed with his fifth place in the world championships plus sixth in last weekend's Giro dell'Emilia, he is still going well despite what has been a very long season. "I am still riding all right," he said. "I will go to Lombardy and do what I can there. I am thinking about doing a good race, but also what happens with the ProTour."
Much of that pressure is off now that Di Luca is out, and his nearest competitor, Alejandro Valverde, has withdrawn from the race due to the flu. It would take stunning ride for third placed Oscar Freire to get over the Monte Ghisallo and the final two climbs within the last 20km and overtake Evans in the standings by winning and keeping Evans to a 8th or worse place finish.