Evans triumphs at Tour de Romandie
Cadel Evans won his second Tour de Romandie and hailed the victory in his adopted country as a boost for his main goal of the season, the Tour de France.
"It's almost a home win for me. Switzerland is the place I picked when I decided to move to the northern hemisphere as a mountain biker in 1998 and I've lived here for the last 12 years," the Australian 2009 road world champion said after the final, 164.6-km stage.
Evans, who won his first major stage event in Romandie five years ago, repeated the feat ahead of two other Tour de France contenders, up-and-coming German Tony Martin and veteran Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov.
Thanks to his fine effort in the penultimate time trial at the Signal de Bougy park, the Australian finished 18 seconds ahead of Paris-Nice winner Martin overall and another second ahead of former Vuelta champion Vinokourov.
"Romandie was the first Pro Tour level race I won and we also rode past the village of Lugnorre in which I settled in 1998 as well as the Neuchatel headquarters of the company I signed with when I came to Europe," said Evans, who became world champion two years ago in the Swiss town of Mendrisio.
Evans was sidelined for a month by a knee injury in March, after winning the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, and said he was surprised to be back in form so early.
"It's a pleasant surprise but it shows what good work my BMC team staff did to bring me back to shape," he said.
Twice a Tour de France runner-up, the 34-year-old all rounder has often been hampered by the lack of a strong team to support him, but he said the current BMC line-up was probably the strongest he had known.
"We already had a strong team last year but unfortunately I broke my arm (on the Tour)," Evans said.
"I definitely believe we have an even better team this year and races like this are ideal to get to know each other ahead of the Tour. I hope my victories in Tirreno and here will give my team mates that little bit of extra motivation for the rest of the season."
The Tour de France runs from July 2 to 24.
Evans was seldom attacked in Sunday's final stage to Geneva, despite the presence of two first-category climbs on the course.
After several unsuccessful breaks, the bunch reached Geneva fully packed and the mass sprint was won by up-and-coming British sprinter Ben Swift, already winner of two stages in the Tour Down Under early in the season.
Swift, 23, beat three-times world champion Oscar Freire on the line after a great team effort by his Sky team mates.
"It's a great honour to beat Oscar, he is the kind of rider I would like to develop into," said Swift.