Like most of the potential overall contenders at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah this week, BMC's Cadel Evans downplayed his chances for victory at the seven-day UCI 2.1 race, but he said his team is motivated and well-prepared to take on the race that bills itself as America's toughest.
"I came here well trained, well focused, motivated to do well," he said Sunday afternoon. "I'm here to get ready for the Vuelta, but I like to race at the front. I think my results from years gone by show that. We have a good team, and, of course, we're going to do what we can. I'd put one or two, maybe three riders ahead of me in terms of favorites to win. But we come here motivated and reasonably well prepared."
The 2011 Tour de France winner has been staying in Park City in advance of the race, acclimating to Utah's altitude and previewing some of the climbs he and the peloton will face later in the week. Evans was able to pre-ride the climbs of Empire Pass and Guardsman Pass, finding them "quite hard," but he said the real challenge in Utah is overcoming the heat and altitude.
"If you look on paper at the altitude gain, gradients and so on, they don't look so hard," he said. "But if it's hot at altitude after a long stage, they become very hard climbs."
Evans said he has wanted to race the Utah tour since coming to watch the race in 2011 as a guest of the Miller family, which owns the race. He's never been able to compete in Utah because of how close it follows the Tour de France, but he was sure to put Utah on his schedule after missing the French Grand Tour this year.
"It comes a bit soon after the Tour de France, and if I came here I wanted to come adjusted to the altitude and race well," he said. "So this year being my first that I didn't ride the Tour de France was my reason for coming here. I've wanted to come here for years but for once I actually had the chance to come here and do a bit of altitude training before."
The BMC leader pointed to Garmin's Tom Danielson as a favorite for the overall, along with Belkin's Wilco Kelderman and the Colombians in the race, like Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp), third overall last year.
"I'm thinking mountains, hot, altitude – hang on a second. I reckon (the Colombians) will go well," Evans said. "I don't know them well personally but I'd look at those guys, and then I think Tom Danielson as well with his results last year at this race. He loves these things: mountains, altitude and so on. That's really his specialty."
Evans will head for the Vuelta a España at the end of the month, and he said his future plans could hinge on how well he goes during the Spanish race. There has been speculation that Evans will retire next year after the Tour Down Under, but he said Sunday that no decisions have been made.
"I've thought about it, but it's also up to the team," he said. "I don't see myself changing teams, but does the team have space for me? It depends on the team's goals. So I think we're both going to look at also how I perform during the second and third weeks of the Vuelta before we make too many decisions yet. No decisions made yet, but almost certainly, yeah, I'll be at Tour Down Under, and I'll be there to race, and I guess with a BMC jersey, because I can't go there on my own, can I?"
The 37-year-old Australian said he will definitely be at his own namesake race next year, which comes on the heels of the Tour Down Under.
"We have a little race called the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race that I'll most certainly be at," he said. "It's a race in my name, in my hometown. So that will be our first race next year, it's a UCI 1.1 the Sunday following the Tour Down Under. I'll most certainly be at that one, even if I have to race on my own."