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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 July, 2005, 06:05 GMT 07:05 UK
Tour debutant
By Matt Majendie

Looking at him, you'd never know Cadel Evans was about to enter the treacherous ascents of the Tour for the first time in his career.

The 28-year-old Australian is among the debutants in this year's race but it's hard to believe the ambitions of Davitamon-Lotto - he is the team's best hope in the general classification - rest on him.

Cadel Evans
Born: 14/2/77
Nationality: Australian
Team: Davitamon-Lotto
Career highlight: 1998-1999 - Mountain bike World Cup champion
2005 high: 8th in Paris-Nice race
Asked why he is so relaxed, he told BBC Sport: "Ah, man, there's way too many nerves and stress going around already.

"Surely that comes later in the race when we finally hit those mountains. Why expend your energy on the horror of it all when you know it's going to be absolutely shocking later on anyway?"

"Chilled" is most people's general assessment of Evans.

And even his own website highlights his seemingly laissez-faire attitude, with a clickable guide to the "real Evans" to the backdrop of him with tongs in one hand over a barbeque.

But once on the bike he becomes a different breed, according to team-mate Robbie McEwen.

"I can't think of a time since he joined the team when the boss has had to tell him to push himself," said McEwen. "He doesn't need to be told. He grits his teeth and gets down to it."

Born in Australia's Northern Territory, Evans now shares his time between his home in Switzerland (during the season) and back home in Victoria (during the off-season).

He has lost his Tour virginity at a relatively late age, when most riders are approaching their peak.

But he was deemed a latecomer into the main frame of the European cycling elite after forays first in BMXing and then in mountain biking.

Just when he looked set to make the star-studded T-Mobile team for the race (which will be headed by Jan Ullrich this season) in 2003 he broke his collarbone.

I plan to get out there and enjoy it although that's easier said than done when we hit the horror of the hills
Cadel Evans
And many said he was unlucky a year on not to have got the Tour call, which he admits was one of the reasons for his sudden switch of teams.

"It's all been very odd in the first few stages of the Tour because I've never been here before and my debut is happening as a team leader," he said.

"I've had experience of other big tours but simply not this one. It is difficult to know what to expect once we hit the big stuff.

"The main regret I have arriving here for the first time is not having had the experience of the Tour before.

"It would have been good for example to work for other riders in the overall standings to see how they do things. But that didn't happen and the time had come to move on."

There have been suggestions Evans' talent was wasted among a list of superstars at T-Mobile.

Talking to him there are hints his time was not exactly always rosy at the team.

When asked what he'd picked up as a leader ahead of his first Tour, he said: "Bizarrely my best experience in terms of leadership was at Mapei where I learnt from Stefano Garzelli and Paolo Bettini.

"At T-Mobile, I rarely got to ride with the riders in our team going for the GC in the big races.

"And away from the racing, it depends on the individuals and their personalities what you pick up. I didn't really pick up much information so have come here to work it out for myself."

The diminutive Evans, whose girlfriend Chiara - a classical pianist - is his biggest influence, has been "blown away" by the Tour circus to date.

But he is very clear how he plans to tackle the tougher times.

"I plan to get out there and enjoy it," he said, "although that's easier said than done when we hit the horror of the hills."



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