By Bjorn Haake in Oostende
Cadel Evans will start his quest to win the 2009 Tour de France this weekend at the Vuelta a Andalucía, also known as the Ruta del Sol. After three months in Australia, Evans arrived back in Europe for the presentation of his team, Silence-Lotto, in Belgium. Evans detailed his race programme, which will not include the Giro d'Italia.
The race in Spain will give him some early time to get acquainted to his new teammate Thomas Dekker. "I am doing my first race with him, and I am looking forward to getting to know him as a racer. It is good to have the presence of a rider who does win big races."
Evans added that getting to know the Dutch rider's strength and level will be important in light of the team time trial in the Tour. "In that regard Sebastian Lang is also a great acquisition," said Evans, who was giving more thoughts to the strong riders the team gained, rather than the ones they lost, namely Chris Horner and Yaroslav Popovych.
"This came down to reasons beyond my control. That's the way the sport goes." The only bad thing was the loss of Bernhard Kohl before he even joined the team. "This was unlucky, not because of the fact we lost him – everybody would agree that it is good that these people are caught. But the timing was not good, trying to replace a Tour podium finisher in September/October..."
Evans was very happy with the line-up for the season and feels that the team is stronger than in years past. "There is also Charly Wegelius, Matthew Lloyd, who keeps getting better and Jurgen Van den Broeck – I am looking forward to [working with] him as well."
After the season opener in Spain, Evans will race Paris-Nice in March and then do the Classics, without any particular ambition. "I don't put pressure on myself. My intention is to ride for Gilbert." He added that his job was to perform at the Tour. "That is what my year is judged by."
Finally a 'no' to the Giro
There was a bit of controversy surrounding a potential start at the Giro d'Italia. Evans admitted that he couldn't really decide himself. He had good memories of the 2002 edition. After the last Tour de France, the idea was brought up by the sports directors.
"I wanted to ride the Giro since my first full year as a professional in 2002. The directors asked me last year if I wanted to ride it.
"It has a lot of merit in the preparation for the Tour, but I was a bit indecisive about it. I wanted to walk away and think about it." He felt there could have been some benefit after sticking with the same programme for four years. "Sometimes a change is all you need."
Eventually he chose to skip the Italian Grand Tour. "I weighed all the pros and cons, taking into account the layout of the Tour. The timing for the Giro is just so difficult with regards to my Tour preparation."
He added that there were only 33 days between the end of the Giro and the beginning of the Tour. "Sometime between February and July I need to have a bit of a break." The Giro falls right in there. The break afterwards would be too close the Tour. "The Tour starts with a very important time trial and you have to be at your best right away."