Evans showing best-ever early-season form?
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Evans showing best-ever early-season form?

by Conal Andrews at 9:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under
 

For a rider who initially wasn’t even sure if he would compete in the Santos Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans has proved to be one of the key figures in the race. He's also delighted the home fans in the process.

The world road race champion has done full justice to his rainbow jersey in his first race of the year, finishing third on stage three to Stirling, and then sparking off today’s crucial break on Willunga Hill.

He attacked on the second ascent of the steep climb, shedding the other riders, and was eventually joined by Luis Leon Sanchez, Alejandro Valverde (both Caisse d’Epargne) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas Doimo).

Evans was race leader on the road and while the peloton reduced the gap sufficiently to negate the danger to André Gripel’s lead, he is now fifth overall, 21 seconds back.

For a rider who had such a long 2009 season, who finished racing late in the year, and who had a large number of commitments to fulfil over the winter, he is showing remarkable form.

“It was a bit more my thing today, 148km with two laps over Willunga Hill,” Evans said after the finish. “Going into the stage we knew that to crack Greipel we would need some good cooperation from some teams with a common interest.

“Caisse d'Epargne was the right team but with two of them for the stage win and the peloton breathing down our back, it was a bit tricky. We did manage to hold of all but one of the main group but [it was] only fourth for me on the stage.”

Evans would normally not be expected to hit good form for at least another two months. His goals are much later in the year and a gradual build-up is to be expected. However, the motivating effect of the worlds title appears to have worked wonders, and perhaps that big victory last autumn also helped to remove the burden of pressure he always appeared to be under.

More often than not, world champions fail to perform at their previous level when wearing the rainbow jersey. It’s early days yet, but thus far, Evans has actually moved it up a notch. Providing he can keep the momentum going, he could be on course for his best-ever season.

The Santos Tour Down under concludes tomorrow with a criterium. The Australian is unlikely to attack, but will certainly soak up the support from the thousands of spectators who will be lining the streets.

“One more day tomorrow, the Adelaide City Circuit race,” he said. “That’s not my thing but it’s always a pleasure to race in front of that big crowd. If Greipel pulls off another stage, it will be incredible!

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