The King is dead long live the King

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    Cadel Evans - winner of the 2011 Tour de France, Sunday July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena).

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    Cadel Evans has provided some of the greatest moments in Australian cycling history, and some of them will never be bettered, because Cadel broke the mould.

    But now, sadly, it’s Cadel who looks like he’s broken.

    Yes it’s only the end of March but after an encouraging Tour of Oman, and a reasonable Strade Bianchi, further improvement at Tirreno Adriatico never materialised.

    And now the Criterium International, an event Cadel went into as defending champion, only raised more questions about his short, medium and long-term future.

    The first eyebrow rose in Saturday’s individual time trial, seven kilometres over a technical undulating course.

    Sky’s Aussie golden boy Richie Porte won it in 9:10, a mere one-second ahead of Manuele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC).

    Nothing boosts confidence as much as good memories, so Cadel should have been feeling great about a return to this race. If that’s how he felt, it didn’t translate to any kind of performance.

    Evans completed the seven k’s in 9:56, finishing 74th, a massive 46 seconds behind Porte.

    So poor was this ride he was even beaten by Andy Schleck (71st), who’s barely finished a race this year. Cadel later wrote on his website, “small problem + small problem = bad TT” but there’s no need to worry as there was “nothing that effects longer term goals on the horizon.”

    Cadel is never one to make excuses but an explanation would have been appreciated.

    But that result meant he was destined to spend the final stage working for Tejay van Garderen, sitting only one second behind Porte on general classification.

    Ordinarily this would be a stage suited to Evans. The 176km stage finished in a grinding 14km climb averaging 6.2%, with a one k ramp at 10% three km from the end, but the TT put an end to that.

    As the Sky trio of Vasil Kiryienka, Chris Froome and race-leader Porte hit the decisive Col de l’Ospedale, Evans was with van Garderen and Amaël Moinard in a peloton steadily pursuing the day’s escapees.

    Four k’s later, as Sky pounded relentlessly away, it wasn’t Moinard who was first to surrender for the day, it was Evans.

    His day was done and he rolled home in the foggy, late afternoon drizzle in 49th at 14:56.

    Writing on his website Cadel seemed happy with his day: “I was happy to hang with Tejay and deliver him to the final climb fresh and safe, a different role for me but enjoyable racing without the expectations of delivering the team’s results.”

    Ultimately van Garderen wasn’t able to deal with Froome’s attack with just over five k’s to go or Porte’s stunning sweeping move three kilometres later.

    For his part, Moinard sat on Tejay’s wheel, which is not exactly how you help someone conserve energy for a final assault on the yellow jersey.

    So when it came to the crunch, Tejay didn’t have the answer to Sky’s super duo and he had to make do with third overall at 54 seconds to Chris Froome, who now has two stage-race victories to his name this year.

    Cadel finished 51st at 15:49 and third place at the Tour of Oman looks a long, long time ago.

    Feel free to have servings of humble pie ready to serve me in July but, sorry, despite it being the end of March, Cadel Evans does not look even close to challenging the top guys at the Tour.

    Maybe he’s sick and just not saying anything.

    Maybe I just expect too much.

    Maybe Cadel is simply saving it all up for July.

    Maybe, at age 36, time has caught up with arguably Australia’s most famous cyclist.

    Cadel will now be back home spending “some time with my favourite guy and girl (son and wife) before beginning the next phase of my season.”

    What that next phase of his season is remains to be seen. Hopefully we see him in both the Tour de Romandie and Dauphine looking impressive and ready to fly in France.

    No one wants that more than me, but even if he does rediscover his form, Cadel should forget about the Tour podium. He should be told and then tell us that his role at the Tour will be to ride for Tejay. It makes sense.

    Just as Richie Porte and Michael Rogers did for Bradley Wiggins last year, so Cadel should ride himself into the ground for his American protégé.

    As a Tour winner, who could do a better job? Tejay would love it and he will thrive because of it. Last year Tejay rode for Cadel, even when it was clear the defending champion was struggling. Ultimately he was relieved of Cadel duties and rode to finish fifth.

    With the roles reversed this year, van Garderen can at least match that result. If he does, it’ll be a better achievement because potentially the Tour line-up looks stronger.

    It’s been an amazing ride for Cadel at the Tour, but now he should hand over his crown. In fact, he can split it in two and give half to Tejay and the other half to Richie Porte.

    It’s sad watching a champion struggle but it’s brilliant watching another one emerge, and in Porte that’s exactly what’s happening.

    The King is dead. Long live the King!

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • March 27th 2013 @ 12:04pm
      andy said | March 27th 2013 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      well, what you said is true than give him (Cadel) a chance to explain to us ( fans) what is wrong with him???!!!
      don’t write him off yet?

      • Columnist

        March 27th 2013 @ 10:00pm
        John Thompson-Mills said | March 27th 2013 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

        Hi Andy, we would all love Cadel to tell us why he’s struggling at the moment. Yes it could just be a run of bad luck, but from here it doesn’t look like it. Not so much writing him off, just suggesting he changes his focus to helping his team and not chasing podium spots on the Grand Tours. And if CAdel proves the doubters wrong, how awesome is that going to be cos it will be amazing to see.

    • Columnist

      March 27th 2013 @ 1:47pm
      Lee Rodgers said | March 27th 2013 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      It’s our job as journalists to comment on these falls or dips, whatever you term them as, and I do feel that for many who admire Evans, as I do and John clearly does, that critiquing him is kind of like laying down a challenge, like saying ‘go on, prove me wrong.’

      I won’t write him off yet though, even though I do think he should stop focusing on Grand Tours and concentrate more on the Classics. I just can;t do it yet. If ever I meet him I will have to apologise profusely, because I was one of those who used to think he was dull and conservative, when in fact he was just doing his very best to ride competitively in a very juiced up peloton.

      His World’s victory, and his win in the Giro over the Strade Bianche roads, both brought tears to my eyes and made the hair on my neck stand up. Two of the greatest rides I’ve ever seen. One of my favorite riders and I think he deserves a break or two!

      • March 27th 2013 @ 4:57pm
        Mark W said | March 27th 2013 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

        He really deserved to at least get on the podium in that giro. He had virtually no team mates in the whole race. That Strade Bianche stage was easily one of his best moments – winning out of a small group with Vino and Cunego. If it wasn’t for a disastrous stage 19 to Aprica (when Scarponi/Basso/Nibali put more than two minutes into the small chasing group containing Evans) I think he would have been there. Anyway if he had podiumed there that year he would have podiumed all three GTS. I think that would have been a fitting reward for his career.
        Anyway, back to the present and unfortunately I think it is time to put a fork in him because he is done. The results at tour of Oman led everyone to think he might be getting back to 2010/2011 form. Unfortunately since then he has been brought back to reality with some completely terrible rides in TA and CI (behind A Schleck in the time trial!). I saw him doing some good domestique work in Strade Bianchi (the one day race) though. The tour this year is going to be highly competitive with the Froome, Contador, Schleck(!?),Vandenbroucke, Gesink, and enthusiastic up and comers like Pinot, Rolland, TJVG. I just can’t see him making the top ten at his age.
        I think Australians who have been staying up late for years to watch Cadel in the tour are going to have to find another point of interest because he is not going to be at the front end of this year’s race.

        • Columnist

          March 27th 2013 @ 9:49pm
          John Thompson-Mills said | March 27th 2013 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

          Hi Mark, thanks for the feedback. I, like many cycling fans think about Cadel a lot and just try to imagine what is really going on. He’s never been the easiest person to read and has not really had the best relationship with the media either. In fact I imagine that when he does stop racing he’ll pretty much disappear from public life. That said as a former Tour winner and the only Australian one at that, he’ll still be in demand. I was thinking today whether his problem–assuming (wrongly?) of course he has one–is maybe a lack of hunger. Being a Dad can change you dramatically. Who knows? Anyway, what does he have to prove to anyone? As for the future, I can’t see him in the Classics as I’m not sure the parcours suit him and I question whether he’s got that explosive strength to ride away from a Sagan/ Boonen/Cancellara/ warrior type who are all much younger than him of course. As for you finding another point of interest in this year’s TDF, you won’t have to look very hard. The good times in Aussie cycling are going to continue for years to come.

          • March 28th 2013 @ 2:56am
            Mark W said | March 28th 2013 @ 2:56am | ! Report

            Cadel would be much better served if he didn’t continually put forward all these mealy-mouthed and cryptic statements (bad legs, virus, one little problem etc) about his form. He would get a lot more respect if he said (for example) “i did my best but my best isn’t getting me too far these days. Maybe age is catching up with me” , or alternatively he said nothing at all. Meaningless pap just aggravates people.
            I’m sure you are right about his motivation as well as he has copped a lot of criticism over the years for his style and lack of attacking, but with a TDF in the hand – the one thing he spent his whole career aiming for – it has got to have an effect on your motivation. Why kill yourself if you have already won the big prize? – and you know killing yourself won’t necessarily get you the win anyway! Chasing spots in the grand tours is what Cadel Evans does and if that can’t motivate him nothing will. And he has two particularly impressive one day victories with FW and the World Championship.

            As for Aussie interest in this years tour, I am going to have a hard time giving it to Richie Porte. He is riding for sky and their 18 month dominance of the cycling calendar has helped to kill exciting racing. If he goes to the tour it will only be as domestique anyway for Froome. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him before he joined Sky and if he leaves them I will like him again. Hopefully Matty Goss can make a more determined effort for the green jersey this year after last year’s catastrophe and greenedge I’m sure will put up a good show.

            • March 29th 2013 @ 6:02am
              Sam said | March 29th 2013 @ 6:02am | ! Report

              Sky are not killing exciting racing. They’ve found a big key to winning stage races, and its up to other teams to find ways to combat them. Instead of moaning about Sky, how about the other teams figuring out ways of really taking them on. Besides, are you saying that what Froome and Porte did on Stage 3 of CI wasnt exciting? If you really dont think so, then I’d like to know what your definition of exciting is…

    • Roar Guru

      March 31st 2013 @ 8:59am
      sixo_clock said | March 31st 2013 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Isn’t this what the crucifixion of Lance was all about? Now we get down to the nitty gritty of the limits of the body and its internal chemistry to sort out problems?

      Still pissed that Armstrong was singled out and the tsunami didn’t eventuate. Gross corporate cowardice from all involved.

      Whatever Cadel does now his name will still be set next to Oppy’s in the Oz pantheon of cycling. I wish him all the best.

    • April 1st 2013 @ 10:25am
      B.A Sports said | April 1st 2013 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      If it were any other champion cyclist from any other country, would the significant drop in results and lack of comment from rider be just put down to getting older or lack of form, or would we be a little more sceptical…?

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