Tour favourite Evans relies on a strong team

By Jean-François Quénet Tour de France favourite Cadel Evans was worried about his knee but the week...

By Jean-François Quénet

Tour de France favourite Cadel Evans was worried about his knee but the week of racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré reassured him about his chances to be at the peak of his form in the Tour de France next week. Cadel Evans seemed pretty relaxed at the end of the mountain stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. He came in second overall again – a position he claimed last year behind Christophe Moreau, before getting the same result at the Tour de France behind Alberto Contador. He was not afraid to attack Alejandro Valverde while climbing up to La Toussuire, although the headwind didn't give him much hope. "I'm climbing well but not well enough for the win," was his first comment after the stage.

Quickly, he admitted: "I don't want to be getting too good too soon." Evans likes the Dauphiné, the format of the race – one week of competition comprising sprints, mountains and time trials – and the environment of the French Alps. Race organiser Thierry Cazeneuve testified, "Cadel is the only rider who came and thanked me, it was after the podium ceremony last year. He said the race was perfect." This is just an example of how polite the Australian is and how much he is appreciated in the world of cycling. The image of an individualist he carried when he switched from mountain-biking to road racing is no longer valid.

He came back to the Dauphiné this year with a different approach and a lot of worries. As a runner-up in the Tour de France last year, he's the logical hot favourite in the absence of Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen. "When I look back at last year's Tour, I think I rode a really good Tour. I got there on the results board, I avoided mishaps and so on. I'm happy with that. It's done. I don't have to bother about it now. I'm thinking at 2008 only." Still, had he kept a steady pace when Rasmussen and Contador went for ballistic attacks in the Pyrénées, instead of trying to follow them, he could have saved the 23 seconds missing in the end.

Evans is a very organised champion. He likes to plan everything but his Tour preparation was interrupted by a knee injury. "The last few weeks have been rough for me," he explained during the Dauphiné. "It was kind of a worrying period for me. I don't like not being in control of my progress and training, especially when it comes close to the Tour. I had to take a bit of a diversion from my program. Now I'm happy, I'm back at a good level. It's going well. So far, so good."

Capitalising on his image as a polite guy, he said: "I have to apologise. Many journalists were calling me, emailing me, but I was concentrating on [treating] my injury and getting back on track towards the Tour."

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