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Evans looking good at Tour de Carnage

Updated: July 12, 2011, 03:09


Andy Schleck of Luxembourg looks at the photographer during the 9th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 208 kilometers (129 miles) starting in Issoire and finishing in Saint Flour, central France, Sunday July 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

THIEZAC, France (AP) With his self-confidence at a high and luck finally on his side, Australia's Cadel Evans could achieve something special this year in the Tour de France.

The two-time runner-up was third in the overall standings enterng the 10th stage Tuesday, the best placing among the favorites, after surviving a crash-marred week that saw several contenders bow out.

The BMC team leader finished behind Alberto Contador in 2007 and Carlos Sastre in 2008. Last year, Evans wore the yellow jersey but broke his left elbow and settled for a 26th-place finish on the Champs Elysees.

Regarded as an underachiever until he become world champion in 2009, Evans is stronger this year.

"The psychological part of it is pretty enormous,'' BMC manager Jim Ochowicz said. "He changed his approach to his racing and he learned to manage his own expectations of the race.''

Although Evans refuses to rate himself as the favorite, his confidence is flying high.

"So far so good, the team has been great, keeping me out of trouble, and if it could continue like this I would be very, very happy,'' Evans said.

While Bradley Wiggins, Christopher Horner, Alexandre Vinokourov and Jurgen Van den Broeck were forced to withdraw because of injuries, Evans avoided all the crashes by staying constantly ahead of the pack, well protected by his teammates.

He was 2 minutes, 26 seconds behind race leader Thomas Voeckler.

Contador was 16th, 4:07 off the pace.

"Evans is in great form,'' Contador said. "The profile of the first stages, with their short and steep uphill finishes, really suited him. But it's also true that when Cadel is having a bad day, he can lose a lot of time.''

According to Ochowicz, mental toughness is now one of Evans' main assets.

"He manages this really well,'' Ochowicz said. "With the racing aspect, we've seen a difference in his ability to handle the stress of the race last year. And he has improved on that again this year.''

Before joining BMC at the end of the 2009 season, Evans spent five years within the Lotto team ranks. There, he was always on the attack but often criticized by pundits for his tactics.

The 34-year-old Evans, a former mountain bike specialist, decided to leave Lotto to find a better environment and to be supported by riders capable of helping him win the Tour.

"Within the BMC team, he found a serene and very laid-back atmosphere, a very American atmosphere,'' BMC sports director John Lelangue said. "It surely fits Anglo-Saxon riders, and he is one of them. We also speak English when we eat together, during the briefings, on the race radio, that surely helps.''

Ochowicz said Evans' self-confidence also is boosting the team's morale.

"And I think our ability to be able to put a lot of resources into his race - material, staff, the right people, like in a family situation - makes it easier for him,'' Ochowicz said.

Last year, Evans said his efforts in finishing fifth in the Giro d'Italia drained him for the Tour. He decided to skip the Italian race this season to focus on the Grande Boucle and arrived at the start with less than 35 days of racing in his legs.

During his Tour warmup, he showed he was capable of doing well in the high mountains with a second-place finish at the Criterium du Dauphine a few weeks ago. He also won the Tirreno Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie this season.

He didn't wait long before demonstrating his strength at the Tour, edging out Contador in a photo finish to win the fourth stage of the race.

"We centered his whole preparation on one-week races,'' Lelangue said. "It gave him confidence and he arrived at the Tour fresher, which was crucial. And what his teammates have done for him during the first week of racing strengthened his confidence. He can do a beautiful Tour.''

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