Evans upbeat about Tour defence
Australia's Cadel Evans said Friday he remained confident about his Tour de France title defence despite illness and off-bike distractions.
Evans will gauge his current form when he competes in the seven-stage Criterium du Dauphine over 1 052 kilometres (654 mile), beginning in Grenoble, France, on Sunday.
The Dauphine is a major lead-up event before the three-week Tour de France starts on June 30 in Liege, Belgium.
Evans has been in great demand since he became the first Australian to win the Tour last July.
As well as the attention that has come with being Tour champion, Evans became a father in December when he and his wife, Chiara, adopted a baby boy, Robel.
Evans won the Criterium International in March, but had to pull out midway through the Ardennes one-day classics the following month with a sinus infection.
He has not raced since the Tour of Romandie in late April, where he was defending champion but was clearly off his best form and finished 29th overall.
"Of course, the off-season was extremely busy, handling obligations that go along with being the Tour winner," Evans was quoted by Australian Associated Press.
"And then I had a sinus infection that slowed me and eventually kept me from doing some of the classics.
"In between, I had a good race at Criterium International, winning the time trial and the race, so that was a good thing.
"The most important thing for me now is to keep preparing and working with the team so we are at our best when we take the start."
Last year Evans won the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race as well as the Tour of Romandie before the Tour de France, but his entire 2011 campaign was based around peaking in July.
This time he said he has slightly held back because of the London Olympics after the Tour and potentially the September world road titles.
Evans said a big factor was ensuring the solid team spirit at BMC that underpinned his Tour win last year was in place.
"I think it built a lot of unity and confidence and morale (last year) – what I did at Tirreno-Adriatico, Romandie, etcetera," he said.
"That helped going into the Tour. So although I didn't quite perform to my expectations this season, I feel we have that same unity now."