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Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali, Michele Scarponi and Cadel Evans at the 2014 Giro d'Italia route presentation.
Zoncolan is 'cherry on the cake' of 2014 route, says Australian
The Australian will be 37 next February and is in the final year of his contract with BMC. He finished third overall in this year's Giro d'Italia but then struggled in the Tour de France, finishing 39th overall. He conceded that back-to-back Grand Tours were too much for him after also struggling with the illness that affected his 2012 season, leading to a logical decision to target the Giro.
Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France in 2011 but the USA's Tejay van Garderen is expected to lead BMC at the 2014 Tour de France. Evans has special memories of the Giro d'Italia. He wore the race leader's pink jersey for two days in his first Grand Tour back in 2002 but lost it after suffering in the mountains.
"I've always wanted to come back to the Giro after 2002 and even the team wants me to focus on the Giro in 2014," Evans told journalists after seeing the route presentation in Milan.
"The team wants to concentrate on the Tour with Tejay and a younger generation of riders. That's okay. I dedicated 10 years of my life to the Tour de France.
"I've had 18 months of inconsistency after I was sick at the start of 2012; it lasted until about August of this year. It wasn't just due to being unhealthy, it was down to racing not in good health but also in the recovery period and missing out on racing. Things have came back together in recent months and that was my first goal: race in good health at the end of the year.
"My level meant I couldn't be there at the Tour, whether that was because of the Giro and the programme I did leading up to it, I don’t know."
Evans is still clearly motivated and hungry despite his age but he knows the end of his career is approaching. He has no plans to race past his 40th birthday like Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner.
"I'm not scared that time is going by. I've had a lot of seasons as a rider. People keep telling me I'm younger than Horner but I've no plans to be racing at 40 years old," he said with a laugh.
Evans is convinced he can fight for the pink jersey in the 2014 Giro d'Italia.
"I certainly hope so, or else I wouldn't waste my time being here," he said.
"The race route is slightly more balanced [than in the past]. I don't know if it's more humane because if they put in less mountain stages, we just ride faster and go flat out. It doesn't get any easier. It suits a rider who is consistent but that's case for most Grand Tours. There are a lot of stages for the climbers but there's also the 47km time trial, where a pure climber will struggle not to lose time."
He picked the summit at Monte Zoncolan, the final mountain stage of the race before the finish in Trieste, as his favourite stage.
"I like the Zoncolan stage the most. I wasn't at my best in 2010 but I'd like to go back there. There's a special ambiance. There's not much space and not much road but it's a special stage. I don’t think the Zoncolan will decide the Giro but it's the cherry on the top."