Where to now for Cadel Evans?
2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia, right, follows overall leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, left, during the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 207.5 kilometers (129 miles) with start in Epernay and finish in Metz, France, Friday July 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Watching Cadel Evans being dropped during stage 16, I commented to a friend I thought this would be Cadel’s last Tour. He appeared to have lost his desire and, at 35, his legs may just be too old to compete with the other GC contenders.
Compounding the issue was the performance of his BMC teammate Tejay Van Garderen.
Along with winning the White Jersey for best young rider at the Tour, Van Garderen also finished in the GC at fifth place – ahead of Cadel who came seventh.
Perhaps most importantly, Van Garderen passed his team leader on the roads during the penultimate stage Time Trial, making three minutes up on Cadel within the first half of the TT.
When asked what the future held for him, Van Garderen said, “I can come back here in a year or two and maybe fight for a yellow jersey rather than a white.”
A year or two. Having already taken Cadel’s title in the peloton for ‘most ridiculous first name for a rider from an English speaking country’, Tejay is now talking about being his team’s GC contender as soon as next year.
Cadel gave it his best – he always does – but his BMC racing team couldn’t hope to keep up with the Sky Pro Racing juggernaught.
So dominant was this Sky team the only genuine contender to take the General Classification (GC) victory from Bradley Wiggins was his Sky teammate Chris Froome (who must have been sorely tempted on a number of occasions but was smart enough to know his place).
Though plenty will point to stage 16 in the Pyrenees, when Cadel was suffering from a stomach bug and was dropped on two climbs, as the day in which he lost the Tour, he would be realistic enough to realize it happened earlier than that.
As Fairfax cycling reporter Rupert Guinness put it, “for an event requiring so much detailed preparation and planning to get it
right, the root of where it goes wrong extends beyond just one bad day.”
Since winning last year’s Tour, Cadel’s life has changed dramatically both personally and professionally.
Firstly, and most importantly, he became a father for the first time when he and his Italian wife Chiara adopted an abandoned Ethiopian boy, named Robel.
During his time at the Tour, he has also been dealing with the fact his son, who has an Ethiopian passport, was not likely to receive an English visa to see his father race at the London Olympics. It wasn’t until over a week in to the Tour that the issue was resolved.
Secondly, this year Cadel came in as defending champion. Though defending your title would be pretty good motivation, it could also serve to diminish one’s hunger.
Cadel came so close on two occasions (four if you count his top-10 finishes in 2005 and ’06), then had two forgettable years through a lack of support and injury.
Coming in to his winning 2011, he didn’t have the weight of any expectations on his shoulders but certainly had the fire in his belly. This year, it may have been reversed.
So what does this all mean for Cadel? Would he be happy to come back next year and act as a super-domestique for Van Garderen? History suggests not.
Cadel left his previous team, Silence Lotto, after they demoted him to being a domestique for Jurgen Van den Broeck in 2009.
Leaving Silence-Lotto saw Evans end up at BMC, as the American team’s Captain in their inaugural season. It is for this reason one would think Cadel would be allowed on more crack at the Tour – he is the man who put BMC on the map, winning them the Tour in only their second season.
Furthermore, while 35 is getting to the end of a cyclist’s career, Jens Voigt is still threatening for stage wins at 40 years of age. Though for Cadel to win again would make him the oldest Tour victor of all time (as it stands, he is the oldest Tour winner in the post-WWII era), it isn’t impossible.
So where to for Cadel? With next year marking the 100th Tour in history, one would think he will give it another crack and that his BMC teammates, including Van Garderen, would be proud to have him as their leader for at least one more year.
Furthermore, with the inevitable fracturing of Sky (if Chris Froome is riding as a domestique again next year I’ll eat my laptop) and the return of both Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, Cadel’s chances of victory would seem to improve.
It may sound ridiculous that more contenders improve Cadel’s chances, but with more riders present to attack both Wiggins and the Sky team, there is less pressure on Cadel to do it himself.
Furthermore, his style is too similar to Wiggins’ – a time trialist who can climb – for him to break Wiggins without a team of dominant climbers, something Cadel does not have.
On the other hand, Cadel may finish this year’s Olympic Games, go home to his beautiful wife, young son and trophy room featuring both a yellow jersey and the rainbow jersey of a world champion and simply decide he’s had enough.
Or, rather, he has enough.