CYCLING-TOUR-DE-FRANCE-EVANS:Tour de France - Evans takes a different approach
By Gilles Le Roc'h
PARIS (Reuters) - It took Cadel Evans seven attempts to win the Tour de France at and the Australian defending champion will discover in the three weeks ahead just how hard it is to win a second.
Twice a runner-up in the greatest cycling show on earth, in 2007 and 2008, Evans finally set the record straight last year in a strong and confident display of all-round talent.
Yet the 2012 race which starts in Liege on Saturday is an awkward one, with a rare emphasis on time trials at the expense of mountain stages, while Evans's preparation was not as ideal as it was a year ago.
"Everybody's asking me: 'Can you win two?'. When Lance Armstrong won his first he was asked the same and then he won five and he was asked: 'Can you win six?' and he went on to win seven. That's the nature of our sport," the BMC team leader told Reuters at the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month.
"The approach changes a little bit when you've won it. I would not say I'm less ambitious but ambitious in a different manner. Before you won your first Tour you ask yourself: how do I do it? The second: let's just repeat what we did."
At 35, he would certainly have loved to repeat the ideal gear-up to the Tour he had last season when he won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Romandie before achieving his career goal by becoming the first Australian crowned on the Champs Elysees.
This time however, he had to be content with winning the Criterium International in March and grabbing a stage in the Dauphine before finishing third overall behind Briton Bradley Wiggins and compatriot Michael Rogers.
"It would have been good to win Tirreno and Romandie. But as the winner of the Tour, we have the confidence, we know what we need to do," he said.
"There's a little pressure from not having results but it's also a motivation. There might be other goals in cycling that I want to do but the Tour is the number one goal. I have a good team around me and my body is capable of doing it.
"I think I can. The only thing I ask is no bad luck and the rest we can take care of."
Evans's name is obviously close to the top of the list of pre-Tour favourites, not only because he is the title holder, but also because other usual contenders like Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck do not start.
The race also looks promising to time trial specialists like Evans.
"The Tour won't be won or lost in the mountains, it will only sort out the contenders. But the Tour will certainly be won or lost in the time trials," Evans said.
In the speciality, there is arguably no one better than Team Sky's Wiggins, winner of Paris-Nice, Romandie, Dauphine and everyone's number one bet for final victory - including Evans.
"He's certainly a top favourite for the Tour. I rate him at this point as the number one. He's a major Tour contender and London comes straight after the Tour so it's a big year for him," said Evans, who will also lead the Australian team at the Olympics.
Not a man to reveal his tactics or make over-confident statements, Evans however hinted that Wiggins might have raced just a little bit too much.
With the Olympic road race just a week after the Tour finish in Paris, it will take strong reserves to go for a rare double.
"It's going to be important in the third week of the Tour with the Games coming straight after Paris," he said.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)