Rolling start: Australia's Cadel Evans is gearing up for the national title. Photo: Getty Images
Cadel Evans will race in the Australian road championship on Sunday, his first appearance in the event in nine years.
Evans, 36, had registered for 183.6-kilometre men's elite road race at Buninyong, near Ballarat in Victoria, two weeks ago. But confirmation that he would start the event only came on Wednesday through his manager, Jason Bakker, as the titles got under way with the men's and women's elite and under-23 time trials at Burrumbeet, also near Ballarat.
Evans' late decision to take part was based on his progress in training and at what level his condition was at this early in the year.
Bakker says all the boxes have been ticked for Evans (BMC), who has been training near his home in Barwon Heads, Victoria. It will be his first appearance in the national road race title since 2005.
"Cadel is all set to race," Bakker said. "He's in great spirits and has got some great training done in recent days. It's the first time in a while that he has had such a preparation. He is really looking forward to Sunday and getting his racing season under way."
For Evans, this season will be one of difference, as he will not compete in the Tour de France in which he became the first Australian winner of in 2011.
Evans is instead focused on trying to win the Giro d'Italia from May 9 to June 1. It is a race he placed 14th overall in on his debut in 2002 after wearing the leader's pink jersey into the final mountains stage, fifth in 2010 when he also won a stage and third last year after a six-week preparation before backing up for a disappointing race in the Tour.
Before the idea of racing the nationals was hatched in consultation with his team, Evans intended to start his competition year in South Australia at the January 21-26 Tour Down Under which he last raced in 2010. It was felt that the Australian World Tour event would provide him with the ideal lead-in to his season, as it did in 2010 when he raced well in the Giro. But with good early form after recent training, the tough 10.2km Buninyong circuit of the national title race that the field will race 18 times should provide Evans with a challenge that could set him up well for a strong showing in the Tour Down Under.
Evans will have one big disadvantage though. Unlike riders from the Orica-GreenEDGE and Drapac teams, which have 12 and 13 in the peloton respectively, he will have no teammates for support.
Henk Vogels, sports director of the new-look Drapac team, says professionals like Evans and Richie Porte (Sky) who won't have strong support will have to risk using energy going in breaks or read the race well enough to pick the right move.
"They'll have to try and get in the move, or hope to God the break comes back," Vogels said.
"But it's 18 laps. There are so many variables."
Because of the strength of numbers in his team, Vogels said he expected Drapac and Orica-GreenEDGE would be represented in every break and that both teams would be in the winning move. "We haven't got any anchors or spare wheels in the team, but we have five or six guys we are pretty confident with," Vogels said.
"I think both Drapac and Orica-GreenEDGE will be happy when the break is gone.
"We will never see them again. If the Drapac and Orica-GreenEDGE combinations work, it will be tough to bring [the breakaway] back."