BMC bike company owner Andy Rihs has no doubts of Cadel Evans' (BMC)Tour de France chances this year, telling the assembled press in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under that he has "total confidence" in the Australian to repeat his 2011 feat.
It will be Evans' third year with the BMC squad after previous stints with Lotto, T-Mobile, Mapei, and Saeco. Rihs said that his faith in Evans stems from the closeness shared by the American squad - something has come from keeping the core of riders together for several seasons in a row.
"This team now more than anything is a family and that makes us a very tight unit. You saw how much the team supported Cadel last year and I think we can do the same again."
"There are more time trial kilometres, over 100 this year, and that can only help Cadel. In addition, we have two very strong riders in Hushovd and Gilbert and I know they’ll be happy to help Cadel as well."
Rihs also watered down suggestions that the infusion of Philippe Gilbert from Omega Pharma-Lotto, and Thor Hushovd from Garmin-Cervelo would cause problems for the team in trying to please too many big riders at the Tour. Evans has in previous years voiced his concerns of having more than one leader at the Tour de France; at least one of the reasons he ended up leaving the Omega Pharma-Lotto team at the end of 2009.
Rihs insisted that he was not concerned however, saying that Hushovd and Gilbert's ambitions lie earlier in the season and that it would be 100 per cent for Evans come July.
"For Hushovd I know he dreams of winning Roubaix and Gilbert the Ardennes once more," said Rihs. "But you also have to remember that Cadel is not chasing the jersey from day one. He is smart - and If somebody else has it or wants to win a stage within our team, that’s fine, but the team knows that the bigger goal is the overall Tour, and everyone is happy with that."
Thoughts on GreenEdge
Rihs also fielded questions on new Australian WorldTour team GreenEdge, praising what he called a "fresh idea".
"Australia has a great history in cycling, but the main racing takes place in Europe, so it is logical for Australia to have a WorldTour team. I think it’s exciting to see something new, like GreenEdge come into the sport."
And having had experience starting a team from scratch with BMC, Rihs know just how difficult it can be to get things off the ground. He said that though the focus on sponsorship was something the team would need to address eventually, in the short-term it was more important to get themselves established.
"I don’t think you need immediately to try and find sponsors. Yes – in the end it’s better to have one, and you need one to maintain your team. In my case I fill that role through BMC and I think we get excellent value out of promoting our product.
"But sooner or later GreenEdge will need something to come in – I think they have good possibilities though. Australia has many big national companies – I won’t name them – but there are certainly possibilities."