Liege: As Cadel Evans and his BMC teammates convened for a meeting on Saturday, the defending champion sensed tension. Apparently, he felt the need to lighten the mood among the line-up, which includes three new faces from last year's race: Philippe Gilbert, Tejay van Garderen and Steve Cummings.
''Cadel said: 'Guys, do not stress. We had a lot of fun winning the Tour last year - let's have fun again this year','' said van Garderen, the American who has been pencilled in as the likely successor to Evans as BMC's grand tour leader.
For van Garderen, who placed fourth in the 6.4-kilometre prologue time trial in Liege, 10 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), the advice obviously worked. As for Evans, he was neither elated nor disappointed by his 13th place at 17 seconds to Cancellara.
In the red … the effort shows on the face of Cadel Evans during the 6.4-kilometre time trial. Photo: AFP
For him, the most important element was his placing against his main rivals for the Tour, the biggest being Bradley Wiggins (Sky) of Britain. Wiggins placed second at seven seconds to Cancellara with the same time as Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Asked how he felt about his prologue, Evans said: ''Not good, but not bad. Of course, I would rather concede less seconds. I'm just happy to get it started. I am looking forward to some good racing.''
Meanwhile, Australia's Orica-GreenEDGE team got its Tour debut off to an impressive start with Australian Brett Lancaster recovering from a crash on his warm-up ride on the course to place sixth at 11 seconds to Cancellara - with the same time as fifth-placed Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky).
Cadel Evans starts his Tour defence in Liege
Cadel Evans of Australia starts his defence of the Tour de France title. Photo: AFP
The yellow jersey was far from Evans's mind. Asked what would be the best time to take it, he said: ''The day before Paris, like last year, but I don't know if that is going to be possible. We will take it one day at a time.''