Cadel Evans back on the winner’s list for 2012

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert

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    Cadel Evans will be hoping to add a pink jersey to his yellow one. (Courtesy BMC - Tim de Waele)

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    Cadel Evans is back in winning form, having taken out the Critérium International over the weekend. Cadel’s victory, his first of the season, shows his preparation for the Tour de France is back on schedule.

    The Critérium, not a major race by any means, is a straightforward three-stage affair, this year raced through Corsica. Cadel won in straightforward fashion.

    A comfortable finish in the main bunch in stage one, and a narrow time-trial stage victory over compatriot Michael Rogers in stage two, gave Evans the race lead before the final stage. Stage three, featuring a mountaintop finish at Col de l’Ospedale, was always going to decide the race, and Evans finished strongly in the lead group of four riders to claim his first victory for 2012.

    Rogers faded slightly on the final climb to finish eight seconds behind the leaders, claiming third place overall. Rogers has been one of the unluckiest men in pro cycling over the past few seasons, so it’s pleasing to see him back in some form.

    Evans has started 2012 in quieter fashion than 2011 (this time last year he’d won Tirreno-Adriatico), and he has publicly stated that his off-season was not as smooth as last year (the extra demands on a Tour de France champion, and his family’s adoption of a child, would have provided understandable distractions).

    But the signs of improvement are encouraging, and there is a lot of racing between now and the pointy end of July. A steady progression, putting in solid miles of racing without overcooking the legs, is the way to go.

    How does Cadel’s form compare to that of his expected rivals for the Tour? Well, there are three contenders already in serious form, and a couple who haven’t shown anything.

    Alejandro Valverde, Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali have all won major races already this year, and been consistently in the top places in others. Denis Menchov has been consistent without setting the world alight.

    By way of contrast, Andy Schleck and his brother Frank have both been virtually unsighted in the peloton, suggesting they are both in heavy training and not overly concerned with early results.

    This is not to suggest Frandy Schleck won’t come good. There is a hell of a lot of training, racing and sleeping that needs to happen before we get into serious Tour predictions.

    However, it’s worth pointing out that Cadel’s form line is looking respectable compared to his major opposition. Evans has his first victory for 2012, but he only needs to win one more race to consider 2012 a success. He will, rightly or wrongly, be judged entirely on the Tour de France.

    The World Tour now shifts its major focus to the cobbles of Belgium and Northern France, where the strong men of the classics will fight it out. Evans will be hoping his victory can inject some life into his BMC team-mates, particularly Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd, as they take on the rampaging Tom Boonen.

    From Evans’ point of view, with some pressure relieved, he can get on with the job of peaking for July.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • March 27th 2012 @ 8:45am
      Justin Curran said | March 27th 2012 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      Phew! (Wiping sweat from brow) It’s nice to see Cadel show some form, he looked really good on the final climb of stage 3, easily countering any moves. Tim, you mentioned Cadel’s other superstar team mates, Hushovd and Gilbert. Do you think they are hiding some good form to be revealed at the classics? Or are more Boonan victories a formality?

      • Columnist

        March 27th 2012 @ 10:03am
        Tim Renowden said | March 27th 2012 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        I think if they had been in good form we would’ve already seen some of it, but Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne, and Liege Bastogne Liege will provide plenty of opportunities.

        I don’t think Gilbert is the kind of rider to worry about hiding his form. Last year he was unstoppable.

    • March 27th 2012 @ 9:39am
      Cam Baker said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      If Cadel had an interrupted offseason then has he been racing as much. I mean you can only say he hasn’t been going as well as last year if he has been racing and loosing rather than not racing.

      • Columnist

        March 27th 2012 @ 10:10am
        Tim Renowden said | March 27th 2012 @ 10:10am | ! Report

        Well yes, but the point is that his winning form seems a few weeks behind last year’s schedule. I think we’re all OK with that, and Cadel seems OK with that.

    • March 27th 2012 @ 10:18am
      Roundy said | March 27th 2012 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      There has been some talk of Hushovd and Gilbert being sick over the last month or so, Hushovd carrying an injury as well. Maybe they are being rested as the rest of the monuments approach.

      Will be interesting to see if the Shlecks are indeed saving themselves for July. That is a lot of pressure to put themselves under, and we have seen before that they don’t do so well when that is the case. One would hope that they are doing some time trial training…

      • Columnist

        March 27th 2012 @ 10:32am
        Tim Renowden said | March 27th 2012 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        You would think a few TT lessons from Cancellara might be useful.

        I hope Gilbert and Hushovd find some form – the racing is so much more exciting when they are marauding through the peloton.

    • March 27th 2012 @ 11:46am
      Justin Curran said | March 27th 2012 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      Also good to see SBS broadcasting the classics for the first time this weekend. Will be interesting to see what their cycling coverage is like without Liggett and Sherwin commentating.

    • March 27th 2012 @ 3:35pm
      Roundy said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

      Matt Keenan does a pretty good job but would sound better with a second person. As long as that second person is not Anthony Tan. He’s just a little bit dull.

      Hushovd, hincapie and Gilbert should be an unbeatable force through the classics and then the perfect support for Cadel in July.

      • Columnist

        March 27th 2012 @ 5:04pm
        Tim Renowden said | March 27th 2012 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

        “Hushovd, hincapie and Gilbert should be an unbeatable force through the classics” – emphasis on *should*!

        SBS is using its own commentary team of Matt Keenan and Scott McGrory: http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/35195/spring-classics-live-on-sbs

        Will be a bit odd not to have either Liggett/Sherwin (ITV) or Harmon/Kelly (Eurosport), but great to have the coverage. Liggett and Sherwin are back for Paris-Roubaix.

        I actually prefer the Eurosport commentators – think they’re a bit more accurate.

    • March 27th 2012 @ 7:48pm
      Matt Brown said | March 27th 2012 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

      I have a suspicion that Cadel is going to put his mark on the yellow jersey just a little sooner this year than last. If I remember correctly, the day he finally took it last year he looked like he was dropped and came back up like you wouldn’t believe (was that on Galibier??).
      Wiggins although he wants the tour, I think may find that he’s not quite in the mix come the final week and could even pull then pin to freshen up for the Olympics instead…he will very much focus his preparation on Le Tour however.
      Tim, I’m wondering what you may suggest regarding Cav this year? Does he go out to absolutely maximise his points in the flatter early stages to try and make himself almost unassailable so he can save himself a little later to just get over the hills and then roll on to the Olympics? If not, how does he play it? Might he not feel that Le Tour (as big as it is) needs to play second fiddle to a home olympics this year, and next he simply comes back to add properly to his Tour tally?

      • Columnist

        March 28th 2012 @ 10:37am
        Tim Renowden said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Interesting one for Cav. Does he go for broke and win as many stages as possible in the first few stages, and then “do a Cipollini” as soon as it hits the mountains and head home to recover for London? You couldn’t blame him this year.

        I reckon he’ll decide depending on how he feels at the time.

        • March 28th 2012 @ 7:37pm
          Justin Curran said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

          The other factor is the rainbow jersey. I will be interested to see how he plays it, because some might say he is not ‘doing the jersey proud’ if he withdraws from the Tour. I remember Cadel was praised for finishing the tour with a broken elbow in 2010 while wearing the jersey, and I wonder if there might be a bit of a backlash if Cav pulled out?

          • March 29th 2012 @ 10:07am
            jameswm said | March 29th 2012 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            If I was Cav, I’d say stuff em all. I’ll do what’s best for me.

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