Giro d'Italia: Cadel Evans ready to tame Northern Ireland's roads
Cadel Evans already has a Tour de France success to his name and would love to top a glittering career with a win in the Giro d'Italia – but to do that he knows Ulster's roads and weather must be mastered over the next three days.
Evans, now 37, won the 2011 Tour de France – a State reception was held in his honour when he returned home to Australia – before Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to triumph 12 months later, followed by Chris Froome last year.
And Evans knows he has to get to grips with the conditions in Northern Ireland if he is to challenge in the latter stages of the race.
"Racing in Ireland is new to most of us and we don't know how hard it will be," said Evans.
"For those of us who are here for the general classification, it's going to be very important not to lose time and that will be challenging.
"I think most of us will be riding a little bit into the unknown, we don't really know these conditions.
"The main thing I've noted is that the roads are quite narrow, and with rain, wind and 180 riders in the field, well that's a lot of riders competing for places on the front."
Evans will not compete in this summer's Tour de France, concentrating instead on the Giro.
"I'm lucky that things came together in at least one of my Tours," said Evans, the BMC team leader.
"I don't know if I'll race the Tour again. Regardless of whether I do it or not, I leave it reasonably satisfied and now I'm putting my energy into the Giro.
"For me on a personal level the Giro was the first Grand Tour that I did back in 2002. Now on a professional level the team wants me to do the Giro."
Evans joined the then Pro Continental BMC team in 2010 and became the first Aussie to win the Tour a year later.
Evans won a stage of the Giro and the points classification in 2010 and followed up with third place in last year's race.
Evans has been boosted by his overall victory at the Giro del Trentino two weeks ago.
"As a build-up to the Giro, the results have been a confirmation of the work I've done," he explained. "We're still a long way from Trieste (conclusion of the Giro on June 1) but the preparation in Trentino was very encouraging."
Evans explained that, despite finishing third in last year's Giro, he was still suffering the knock-on effects from a virus.
"It was a new experience to try to ride well while I was ill. It was very difficult," he said.
"It's hard to manage mentally – 2012 and 2013 were two very difficult years."