Cadel Evans believes that Alberto Contador is still Tour de France favourite number one, despite a 2012 parcours that suits Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.

“On paper, [Wiggins] could be among the best contenders,” Evans said, “but I still think Contador is the number one contender.”

Evans spoke today from a team BMC Racing training camp in Spain with journalists in Australia at the Tour Down Under. His team-mate Martin Kohler leads the race over André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).

Besides Wiggins, he rates Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and team RadioShack-Nissan’s riders as favourites. RadioShack’s Andy Schleck and brother Fränk finished second and third, respectively, behind Evans last year.

“Levi Leipheimer could still come well in the Tour if he finds that level he had in 2007. He’s very experienced in time trialling and the course will favour him. The RadioShack team might be able to field one or two more riders into the classification fight.”

The Tour this year features nearly 100 kilometres in time trials.

Evans won the Tour last year by 1-34 minutes over Schleck. It was his first win after finishing twice second overall. He explained that this year he is following a similar pre-Tour race programme. He wants to perform well with his team in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March, where he won last year. He also plans to help new team-mate Philippe Gilbert repeat his wins in the Ardennes Classics in April.

He added that he has been training hard even if he has the weight of the defending champion on his shoulders and many publicity events to attend. He is uncertain how it will feel to race with the number 1 of defending champion on his back this July.

“I don’t know. I never been in the position of defending champion,” said Evans. “I have confidence in the team; a lot of it falls on their shoulders.”

Evans had a busy off season, one that included going to Ethiopia to adopt a child and meeting the Dalai Lama. He said that his return to Australia filled him with national pride.

“The people were very appreciative and very happy for my overall result. So many people who don’t normally follow [the Tour] followed it and wanted to see me succeed. I felt that Australia wanted me to succeed,” he continued.

“On a personal level, things have gone on from there. I started off in 2012 racing for three.”

Evans has been training at home in Stabio, Switzerland, where he said it was 2°C during his last ride. He is now in Denia, Spain, with his team-mates.

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