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Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)
Defending champion says weather conditions could be vital
Defending UCI road world champion Cadel Evans believes that the weather could play a vital role in determining how Sunday's world championship road race will develop and that the Australian team is equipped to deal with any eventuality that may arise over the 260km world title decider.
Speaking during the Australian national team's training camp in Canberra ahead of the Worlds in Geelong, Evans was upbeat about not only his form but that of teammates such as Mathew Hayman and Allan Davis.
"I've had a good training period since the Tour - obviously the broken arm at the Tour meant I had to take some time out and so on... but during August and September training and everything has gone pretty well," said Evans.
"I haven't had that many races to test myself but the few I had showed promising signs and it's all gone pretty well. I've come over to Australia and it's gone pretty smoothly - we're training well up here in Canberra and most of the guys look like they're going pretty well. They're all motivated and for me it's all good although it's on the day that it's going to count the most."
Whilst there has been been plenty of speculation about which rider will be best suited to the 16.4km loop around the port city of Geelong, Evans says that the Australian team is well placed to account for any scenario, although Belgium's Philippe Gilbert and Filippo Pozzato are the two big names to watch.
"Certainly Gilbert and Pozzato [are favourites] in terms of the strongest teams with the best captains - I think going into the race they're the guys to beat. I think we're pretty well placed with a good variety of riders and plenty of experience on the team plus plenty of guys who have raced the Worlds before. They've given their all and plenty of effort for the team in the past," Evans said.
And despite talk now focusing on the aforementioned Belgian and Italian squads, Evans was quick to add that the fickle Spring weather of the southern Victorian region will have a part to play in the manner with which the peloton attacks the race.
The flat, exposed and potentially-windswept 83km run from Melbourne to Geelong will be met with 180km of circuit racing on a tough course that includes a climb that is 1,150m in length and hits a 20 percent gradient in the final 200m. There's another climb that is shorter - 500m - but still steep and another place for the sprinters to find life difficult.
It all adds up to a race that may eventuate much in the manner of a Northern Classic and Evans was quick to elaborate on this fact.
"I think it's going to depend a lot on the weather conditions and whether the big teams race, not only on the initial laps but also on the way out from Melbourne," explained Evans. "The climb is obviously going to be something important but whether it [an attack] happens there, or at the start, I don't know.
"I went away on the flat - the only bit of flat - in Mendrisio so it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen there [on the climb]. If it's raced hard it's going to be a really hard circuit - no Worlds is easy, that's for sure.
"When we had the discussion with Shayne Bannan about what I thought the race would come down to, we agreed that the climb there is pretty hard but we've got before and after [the climb] to deal with as well, and that's where guys like [Fabian] Cancellara, Gilbert and the guys who ride the Northern Classics show their capabilities and strengths.
"We have guys for any scenario the race might end up being and I think in that regard we've got a good team, although individual roles and what goes on there are yet to be decided," continued the reigning world champion. "Mat Hayman's really motivated and working hard; Alby [Allan Davis] is riding pretty well too... he's certainly very serious about it. And Stuey [Stuart O'Grady] is riding well too."
Being one of the captains of the home team, Evans explained that the Australian squad would assess its plan out on the road, as it has done in the past, in order to determine for whom the likes of O'Grady, Hayman and Wesley Sulzberger would be working and when they would be put to maximum use, so to speak.
"In the last few years when we've had a really solid team going to the Worlds - in Stuttgart and Mendrisio - where we've taken the race into our hands, it's often come out in our favour; compliments to Stevo [Neil Stephens] for making those calls.
"It can go the other way as well, which is something you have to see on the day; we've got good guys who can do everything that needs to be done in the race," he said.