Evans shows impressive early-season form, will sacrifice Worlds chances for McEwen
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Evans shows impressive early-season form, will sacrifice Worlds chances for McEwen

by Conal Andrews at 6:21 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under, World Championships
 

Cadel Evans has surprised with his strong early-season form, performing at a high level in the Santos Tour Down Under.

The world champion doesn’t plan on hitting full form until May, yet nevertheless impressed with stage placings of third and fourth, as well as a final overall placing of sixth. He was the highest-placed of the riders who will be contending for Grand Tour titles this year, and insists that he didn’t push things too hard to get ready for the race.

"I hope this is a sign of things to come. I haven't done anything silly in terms of training,” he told The Australian newspaper. “I'm still working towards May and the Tour of Italy, which is my first big objective of the year.

“I have to say things have fallen into place and I have to say having someone like George (Hincapie) and the young guys have been really enthusiastic keeping me out of the wind all week. That enabled me to have what little I had left in the tank for when I needed it towards the end (of a stage). It showed at Willunga and at Stirling as well."

Evans was the main animator on Saturday’s second ascent of Willunga Hill, throwing down the gauntlet and storming clear. He was later joined by Caisse d’Epargne duo Alejandro Valverde and eventual stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez, as well as the highly promising Liquigas-Doimo rider Peter Sagan.

Wearing the rainbow jersey on home soil was a big incentive. "It has been whetting my appetite for quite a while," Evans explained.

"Our objective here was to get everything going for the year, to get to know each other and maybe have a bit of a presence in the race, maybe even go for some results and be a part of the race," he said.

"Certainly on that front I think we did a lot more than expected.

"Being a sprinter's race obviously to have me (in contention) for general classification was a bit nuts actually. From my point of view I had enjoyment on all fronts. I enjoyed the cycling as well."

Despite the huge crowd support for him, he’s kept a sense of perspective. The Tour Down Under is now a major event, but he knows that he has to be at his best later in the season.

"Dare I say it, it was a lot of fun to be in the GC hunt, but our real objective comes at the end of the year," he said.

"Everyone wants to come to this race because it is a nice race to ride, it's not stressful, it's not too hard, it's not uncomfortable. You are not travelling halfway around the world and changing hotels every day and doing big transfers in bad weather or racing in bad weather. We race in nice weather and that's a drawcard."

Will give up world title chances :

Evans will now head back to his base in Switzerland and continue preparing for the start of the European season. He is next due to race in Australia in the world road race in October yet, even though he will be the defending champion there, he has said that he is likely to sacrifice his chances for former team-mate Robbie McEwen.

“If Robbie gets to the finish [in a good position] in Geelong, I'd much rather give up any chance of it being me,'' Evans told the Sydney Morning Herald. ''At best I could finish in the first 20 for our country, but if Robbie can be there for the win, that gives me much greater satisfaction, being there and part of that.

''When I first saw the course I thought, for Australians, it would be between Stuey [O'Grady] and Allan [Davis], but I sort of hope it's Robbie. I know he's not riding as well as he has done in the past here, but Robbie is really strong-minded, and has been for so long at such a high level and I hope it's him. He's coming better slowly, and I hope that's going to pay dividends in October.''

McEwen was badly injured during a crash in last year’s Tour of Belgium. He’s slowly recovered from that and showed strong form in the Santos Tour Down Under, finishing second, third, fourth and eighth on stages, and fourth overall.

He is arguably Australia’s strongest chance in the worlds, particularly as O’Grady has conceded that the course is not as well suited for him as it might have been.

''It's not going to be hard enough for me,” the Saxo Bank rider admitted. ''All the guys I'd rather not get to the finish with, they've got time to recover before they do the climb again. I'm guessing there will be a pretty good group of perhaps 50 riders or so for the finish.''

 

 

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