Cadel Evans Looks to Defend Tour de France Champion Status
Cadel Evans thinks one Tour de France title will make it easier to win another one. However, challenger Bradley Wiggins is in the form of his life.
ramp and put down into practice all these months of training," he told reporters and added "I don't think I've ever been this good: All this stuff we've been doing this week suggests that I am in the form of my life."
Wiggins said he's sensed through social media how many fans back in Britain are behind him.
"In England ... every child's dream is to lift the FA Cup at Wembley or whatever. This is my Wembley."
The crop of likely contenders has thinned in recent months. Alberto Contador was suspended from racing until August and stripped of his 2010 Tour de France Champion title for doping in that race. Andy Schleck -- who inherited the Spaniard's title after placing second that year -- is out with a spinal injury.
International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid expressed concern that the absence of aggressive mountain climbers like Contador and Schleck might deprive the 2012 Tour de France of some drama.
"By all accounts, it should probably pan down to a race between two individuals: Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins," McQuaid commented and continued "They're both very similar type of individuals, which could make it a little bit uninteresting because they're both slightly conservative in the mountains, and they both depend on their time trial abilities to win the race."
"So it could be a methodical race, unfortunately," he added.
The three uphill finishes are relatively few by recent Tour standards. The first comes on the eastern Vosges mountains in Stage 7, with a steep ride up the Planche de Belles Filles -- followed by rides up to ski stations: La Toussuire in the Alps in Stage 11, and Peyragudes in the Pyrenees in Stage 17.
Outside threats for overall Tour de France victory include Dutch rider Robert Gesink, the winner of the Tour of California this year, American veteran Levi Leipheimer -- solid in both time trials and the mountains -- and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, the winner of the 2010 Spanish Vuelta who is back at the Tour for the first time since 2009.
After three days in Belgium, the race cuts from the English Channel across northern France to the Vosges, down to the Alps, down to the nudist-beach town of Cap d'Agde on the Mediterranean Sea, then into the Pyrenees, followed by a pivotal time trial in Stage 19 -- on the eve of the finish in Paris.
"The basics of the race remain the same: You've got to get to Paris quicker than everyone else," Evans said and concluded "Winning one Tour was great. Winning two must be better, right?"
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