“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.” (Jose Mourinho)
"There will be one leader, and that will be me because I have the experience and the results to back up that I can win the Tour." (Cadel Evans)
Cadel Evans' latest interview at BMC's presentation in Belgium was interesting mainly for two factors: his underlined cry for leadership at the Tour and the veiled accusation of wrongdoing by TeamSky, in particular Wiggins. The overall impression is that of a worried rider but one eager to show his best. Last year's lacklustre performance has been blamed on a virus contracted while visiting his adopted son in Ethiopia. His age also must be a worrying factor for him too as not many 36-year-olds have managed to win a Tour. He's also clearly worried by Van Garderen's abilities and wants to establish a clearer hierarchy than last year's. Tejay Van Garderen is an all round exceptional young rider, clearly a future contender as he managed 5th in the overall classification last year without a clear objective from the team. Tejay's problems are more of maturity, team work is not his ambition, leading is. But to become a leader he has to gain political skills in order to have teammates happy to give it all for him. Because of his strength, his tactical sense tends to become clouded by the excitement of the performance.The growing talent in the peloton must be a worry for Evans too, with the shuffling of riders within the ProTour, many strong upcoming young riders are an unknown entity and some established ones have the strength of renovated lineups to suit their ambitions. TeamSky is a clear and established threat, hence his dig at their performance. His concerns at Wiggins' prolonged form puzzles me as he rides with teammates who have achieved that, actually for longer, like Gilbert for instance. Also, Boonen usually lasts until the Tour, Rodriguez had a very long season and so on. Evans himself has shown in the past a high level of form been maintained until the Worlds and Lombardy. His dig at Sky and suspicions of their "methods" are difficult to agree with coming from a rider who has used the services of dodgy Ferrari and whose reluctance to speak out against doping has always shadowed his otherwise much-loved persona.
This Mourinho-esque self-endorsement is slightly awkward but it's good to hear confidence in Evans. Although his style on the bike is not exactly an elegant one, his grit and determination are legendary. He never gives up until he's absolutely forced to by his body or by external circumstances. At his best only Contador and Wiggins, perhaps Froome now, can stand in his way to the top of the podium in an increasingly time-trial-oriented race.