Contador names Evans as Tour de France favourite
Paris: Three-time champion Alberto Contador said Australian Cadel Evans would be his main rival for the 2012 Tour de France after the route, featuring longer time trials, was unveiled on Tuesday.
"It is a route that perfectly suits Cadel Evans," Contador told reporters after the presentation of the route.
Evans agreed with his rival, saying: "There are longer time trials and it is a little bit flatter next year so that`s a little more favourable to the `rouleurs` (not pure climbers).
"I think the second half is favourable towards me," the Australian added.
Very steep new climbs, however, are expected to favour Contador over Evans.
The race, which will run from June 30 to July 22, includes some 96 km of individual time trials -- more than twice this year`s amount.
Spaniard Contador, who is awaiting a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing on a failed dope test in last year`s race, is arguably the best climber in the world and a strong time-trial specialist.
While Contador attempted a Giro/Tour rare double this year, next season he will focus solely on the French race and so is expected to be in much better form for the start in Liege, Belgium.
"It will be a very, very tough Tour, but the Tour is always tough," Contador, Tour winner in 2007, 2009 and 2010, said.
"Some stages are very complicated and it will be up to Radioshack-Nissan, with Andy and Frank Schleck and Andreas Kloeden, to try and seize opportunities."
Luxembourg`s Andy Schleck, runner-up in the last three editions of the Tour, will have to dramatically improve his time-trial performance if he is to get on to the podium in Paris again.
"It will be hard in the mountains but there is a lot of time-trialling so that is something I have been working on," Schleck told reporters.
"I would have liked one more mountain stage to replace one of the time trials."