Cycling: Absent friends ease Evans' path

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The Independent Online

With several big-name riders opting not to compete, world champion Cadel Evans has emerged as the main favourite for the Giro d'Italia when it starts today in Amsterdam.

Defending champion Denis Menchov is skipping the race to prepare for the Tour de France, and so are Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, last year's Tour winner. Last year's Giro runner-up Franco Pellizotti has been banned after discrepancies were found in the blood profiles of his biological passport.

That leaves Evans as the front-runner to secure his first Grand Tour victory. "I have been a favourite before," said Evans, the road race world champion who also won the Walloon Arrow cycling classic last month. "I think I will try and focus on the race and see where I am at the end of it."