x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Evans ready to seize day

The Tour de France favourite Cadel Evans believes this year is the best chance he will ever have of winning the race.

Cadel Evans of Australia adjusts his helmet as he waits to take the start of the first stage of the Tour de France
Cadel Evans of Australia adjusts his helmet as he waits to take the start of the first stage of the Tour de France

BREST // The Tour de France favourite Cadel Evans believes this year is the best chance he will ever have of winning the race. But the 31-year-old Australian warned that Spain's Alejandro Valverde posed a massive threat in his bid to win La Grand Boucle. "This is absolutely the best chance I've ever had to win this race and the best chance I'll ever have," Evans told The National.

"There's no Astana and Alberto Contador [the defending champion] and I'm in the form of my life." The Silence-Lotto team leader is unlikely to come to the fore until Tuesday's individual time trial, an event he expects to finish at least in the top five. "My time trialling's really come along this season," he said. "I've worked on raising that part of my game a hell of a lot which has been helped by the bike I've got. The team have gone out of their way to get the best kit available and that's just as important as how fast I'm pedalling."

Aside from the two time trials, last year's runner-up insists there are no specific days he is targeting as where the Tour will be won and lost. That can happen any day," he said. "Your race can finish on an innocuous crash on day three or by having a bad day on even the slightest climb." The rider most likely to be breathing down his neck on the climbs is Valverde, who started the Tour off the back of victory in the Dauphine Libere during which his Caisse d'Epargne team looked a formidable force.

And Evans admitted: "Valverde looked strong as did his team. Judging by the way he rode the Dauphine, he'll be close but I don't know if there's more to come or whether that's the best he's got. "I feel I've improved on my Dauphine form [Evans finished second] so we'll see. "As for the others, Denis Menchov looks interesting, while we can't discount the Schleck brothers - Andy's proved his worth with second at the Giro d'Italia last year and his CSC team are strong every year Tour."

One potential stumbling block is the attention being heaped on Evans, the Tour favourite, and the ensuing media frenzy, for which his team have employed Lance Armstrong's former bodyguard. But he believes he's dealt with that in the best possible way. "Instead of the ten interview commitments I used to get I've had 110," he said. "So, I've generally just said no and just focused on the bike." @Email:sports@thenational.ae