The 2013 European leg of the new season is just a few weeks old yet many cycling scribes appear to have written-off Cadel Evans as a likely Tour de France challenger this year.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned when covering the winner of the world’s biggest race is never, ever discount one of Australia’s most accomplished sportsmen.
Let’s not forget Cadel enjoyed promising results at the Tour of Oman in February when testing himself against Team Sky's Chris Froome and Saxo-Tinkoff's Alberto Contador.
It was an impressive start against the rivals he’s likely to challenge in July but far too early to make a realistic assessment.
While things didn’t quite go according to plan at Tirreno-Adriatico and Criterium International, the results are not what they seem as these two events were more of a training run than a heavy work-out.
According to Cadel’s Twitter feed and official website, he appears happy with life and the way his season is unfolding.
Much has been said about his age and whether he will have the ability and agility to repeat the Tour success of 2011, but let us also remember his season revolves around one, or two races only.
Unsurprisingly, the first is the Tour while the second will be in the hills of Tuscany for the UCI Road World Championships in September – another important goal as he approaches the twilight of a golden career.
So is there a real need for Cadel to be in tip-top form in March? I don't think so. At 36, he will more-than-likely rely on experience rather being race-hardened for the big events still to come.
Remember too, BMC, like every other team, must reassess its strategies given the domination, depth and tempo of Team Sky at the front of the peloton in races so far this year.
I also think the significance of the appointment of fellow-Australian Allan Peiper to the team cannot be underestimated.
Peiper’s successful strategies at HTC-Columbia and Garmin yielded plenty of triumphs while his role as a patient tactical mentor for many riders has been well documented.
I’m sure he has been employed as Cadel’s “brains-trust” with the view of taking on the Tour.
Cadel constantly reminds members of the media of his battle with a virus that compromised his season in 2012, but that his health issues are a thing of the past.
He has had a relatively light program over two seasons with solid reasons for not racing as much as expected, with the pressures of being the reigning Tour de France champion perhaps the most significant of them in the first half of 2012.
Cadel has a unique personality which chafes at criticism. In fact he feeds off being written-off and it simply makes him stronger.
BMC is about to conduct a heavy training camp and although Cadel’s program for the next six months is currently under review there’s talk he’ll appear at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Criterium du Dauphine before lining up in Corsica.
I expect he’ll start the Tour as BMC’s leader while young-gun teammate Tejay van Garderen patiently waits for his opportunities to shine - his time coming sooner rather than later.
Cadel has been there, done that, knows the best way to prepare and will not start his biggest objectives underdone without good reason.
Scratch him as a Tour de France challenger at your own peril, but I for one believe he’ll be chasing yellow yet again if only to prove his critics wrong.