Australia’s Evans doubts Armstrong a Tour de France starter

May 6th, 2009 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 6 (DPA) Twice runner-up Cadel Evans doubts seven-time winner Lance Armstrong will be on the starting line for July’s Tour de France.
Evans told The Australian newspaper Tuesday that Armstrong’s Spanish teammate, 2007 winner Alberto Contador, would be the favourite and Astana Team leader.

“Astana is the strongest team that’s ever turned up at the start of the Tour de France,” Evans said. “Let’s see who’s on the start line, but Contador is the man to beat.”

Contador won the Tour in 2007 but did not compete last year.

“His time trialling this year has been incredible, particularly at Paris-Nice,” the 32-year-old Australian said, noting that the Spaniard’s weakness in the past had been in racing against the clock.

Evans discounted the legendary Armstrong’s chances of an eighth Tour victory - or even competing.

“Let’s see if he’s on the start line.” Evans said from his Swiss home. “I’ll be watching his progress in the Tour of Italy.”

This Saturday, Armstrong will contest his first Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy). Returned from three years of retirement, the Texan has struggled to regain his power - particularly in time trialling.

Evans admitted that his own form had been disappointing, but gave himself time to reach peak fitness.

“I’m not quite where I was last year but that’s not a problem,” he told the paper. “A lot of people told me I was going too good too early last year.”

He said his Silence-Lotto Team was the strongest it had been since he joined in 2005, saying “the thing that will show the most is the team time trial and we have to concentrate on that.”

He predicted the world’s premier cycle race would be won or lost on the climb to Mont Ventoux on the second-last day. Traditionally, the penultimate stage has been an individual time trial but this year it’s tailor-made for the climbers.

“I’ve always failed in the time trial in that stage, so I welcome the change,” Evans said.

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