By Hedwig Kröner
Australian Cadel Evans made up for his difficult start into this year's Paris-Nice on stage four atop the mythical Mont Ventoux, and showed everyone he had still to be reckoned with – not only in these first few weeks of the European season, but also later on, in July. The 2007 Tour de France runner-up was satisfied with his performance after crossing the line on the Giant of Provence, and it was no wonder – he just out-sprinted Rabobank's new star on the horizon, 21 year-old Robert Gesink, and scored his second victory so far this year.
"It's great not riding for GC!," Evans told Cyclingnews, trying to catch his breath after the violent effort of climbing 15 kilometres at 7 percent average. He hadn't actually expected to win, but wanted to give his team-mate Yaroslav Popovych a hand in securing his spot on the general classification. "I wanted to be there for Popo – it's the first time we worked together so this is where we're actually getting to know each other a bit."
Evans had a 'bad' day on Wednesday's stage to Saint Etienne, finishing over five minutes back, while his Ukrainian team-mate remained in contention. "Yesterday, he was better than me – maybe yesterday made the difference with today...," he added. "Whew. Well, it's not too bad, eh! So far... but it's in July that everyone's going to be watching, I think!"
Evans has shown good form rather early in the season, also winning the mountain stage of the Ruta del Sol in February. But in his view, his level of fitness is not better than in previous years. "I've never had such a good team and environment around me before, supporting me. Otherwise I'm the same or less than last year," he commented, riding off to receive the honours of the day in bright sunshine. It is the 'race to the sun', finally – and maybe Evans' victory could be a good sign for the French summer?