2013 Tour de France: Why Cadel Evans has not failed

Sean Lee Columnist

By Sean Lee, Sean Lee is a Roar Expert

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    What does Australia's future hold without Cadel Evans? (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

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    In the small hours of a cold July night way back in 2011, Australians sat huddled around their lounge room heaters watching events from a bike race on the other side of the world unfold in front of them.

    A rider in a tight red and black jersey was hunched over his bike.

    You could almost see the wake left in the air behind the point of his aero helmet as, with forearms resting across the top of his time trial bars, his legs pumped with unfailing strength toward cycling immortality.

    Cadel Evans hadn’t won the race yet, but it wouldn’t be long.

    In darkened lounge rooms across the country we watched as the time gap between Evans and incumbent leader Andy Schleck began to tumble.

    We whooped with delight as the time gap reversed, indicating that our boy – our Cadel – was now leading the Tour de France.

    Some of us even cried.

    “The greatest Australian sporting victory since Australia II won the America’s Cup,” shouted the headlines after Evans rode into Paris a day later.

    “The greatest Australian sporting victory ever!” screamed others.

    Posters and double paged spreads appeared in newspapers. Highlights of the great race were being shown on mainstream television and headlining the news bulletins. Radio was awash with sound bites and tributes. Tens of thousands of people welcomed Evans home in a celebration of spirit that was televised live from Melbourne’s Federation Square.

    Our Cadel. Our hero.

    Fast forward a year and the same adoring media (and fans) began to turn. Evans had struggled with illness leading up to the 2012 Tour but still battled on. He finished seventh over all, a fair effort for a sick and ailing 35-year-old, but his success of the year before had clouded our judgement and nothing less than a repeat of his 2011 form would suffice.

    Fast forward another year and throw in a loss of time on an early climb at the 2013 Tour and you now have the words ‘Cadel Evans’ and ‘failure’ appearing in the same sentence. Think about that for a moment. Cadel Evans, failure.


    If Cadel Evans is a failure then I’ll take his kind of non-achievement any time!

    Let’s look at this objectively.

    Before last night’s Mont Ventoux stage, Evans was sitting 13th on general classification, 6:54 behind race leader Chris Froome. He is barely one minute outside the top ten and a whopping 25:32 ahead of BMC’s other great GC hope, Tejay van Garderen.

    That’s not bad for a 36-year-old with little team support nearing the end of his career.

    We tend to forget that Evans is now the same age as the oldest ever winner of the Tour – Firmin Lambot. Lambot won the Tour way back in 1922, which proves that Le Tour is not in the habit of giving itself to old men!

    To use football parlance, Evans’ premiership window has closed. In all honesty, he was probably at the very end of that window when he won the Tour back in 2011. Even then, at 34, he was the oldest winner since the courageous Italian Gino Bartoli in 1948.

    Of course, that shouldn’t stop him going into races thinking he is going to win. That’s what all good sportsmen and women do. They believe in themselves and often that self belief remains long after the athlete has passed his or her peak.

    But just as a football team coming off a dominant era will still pull off the occasional stellar victory to remind us of how they used to be, so to do our ageing cyclists.

    Evans’ performance at the Giro d’Italia was one such example.

    But to accuse him of giving us false hope for the Tour by delivering such a performance in Italy is pure folly.

    Evans has paid his dues. He has battled hard in an era of suspicion and remained a shining light for clean cycling. His consecutive second places at the Tour in 2007 and 2008 may have been wins under cleaner circumstances. Indeed his top ten placings in 2005 and 2006 may also have been higher given a cleaner peloton.

    Injury, bad luck and a lack of team support cost him dearly throughout 2009 and 2010 before he broke through for his much-longed-for victory in 2011.

    Evans was a late starter to road racing, coming across to the discipline from mountain biking. He was already 28 years of age when he raced his first Tour. Even so, he has had a long stint at the top of the sport and deserves respect.

    After two weeks of racing in one of the world’s most unforgiving bike races, 13th place and a deficit of just 6:54 seems just about right for a 36-year-old with no team support. It definitely isn’t a failure.

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    The Crowd Says (41)

    • July 15th 2013 @ 1:03am
      Ben Kenobi™ said | July 15th 2013 @ 1:03am | ! Report

      You’re absolutely right. The guy’s a legend, not a failure.

      • July 16th 2013 @ 12:30am
        Tina Micheal Ruse said | July 16th 2013 @ 12:30am | ! Report

        Cadel is no falilure.Everyone ages, yet the media feeds us all a constant stream of crap about how that it is abnormal,can be stopped,Must be stopped.And tares down anyone who is over 25 it seems.Cadels a great athlete and a gentleman a rare combination these days in any sport.You Aussies are lucky to have him-a American fan.

        • Columnist

          July 17th 2013 @ 7:26pm
          Sean Lee said | July 17th 2013 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

          Yes, we are lucky to have him Tina. He is a gentleman and an athlete and he has fans all over the world. It will be a sad day when he retires but the memories he leaves us with will be everlasting.

    • July 15th 2013 @ 1:22am
      Kathy said | July 15th 2013 @ 1:22am | ! Report

      I agree…I will continue to watch this guy who just does not give up. do you think TJ was riding for himself ( perhaps a little passive resistance”) up until now? Perhaps told to pull up his socks day before yesterday?? I can hardly believe BMC even considered him as the leader. What do people think Evans will do next…. I see nothing on his schedule….mind you this is enough. Any sense what will happen at contract renewal time? I would be interested to hear others thoughts.
      somebody has got to recognise this guys following…and he is a good rep for a sport with such a tainted history. I will be with him all of the rest tour in spirit… what an inspiration for when I am too tired to go to my marathon training.

    • July 15th 2013 @ 2:07am
      Gayle said | July 15th 2013 @ 2:07am | ! Report

      Why would we think that Cadel is a failure? With all that he has accomplished , we should consider ourselves privileged to have been along for the ride… No pun intended… Since 2007 I have watched his never give up attitude, applauded his stunning wins and have been amazed by the attitude of people who are prepared to mock…. His third place in the Giro this year was the Cadel we have come to respect.. Once again this year in the Tour de France we see him let down by his team. There is only so much that one man can do… Just look at all the top notch teams that are riding together…. Does this tell us something…. One World Champion, Tour de France winner riding by himself, does not a team make…. As for what he will do when he retires is pretty much up to him… He can do almost anything. And we his avid followers will be waiting, fingers crossed that he is in the public arena for a long time to come.. Allez Cadel Allez.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2013 @ 8:44am
        Sean Lee said | July 15th 2013 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        My sentiments exactly Gayle. Allez Cadel.

      • July 15th 2013 @ 9:27am
        Badjack said | July 15th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        “Why would we think that Cadel is a failure?”
        Because the media guru’s say so. Those same guys who have achieved nothing more than shining the arse of their pants, yet put themselves out there as opinion leaders personified.

        • July 15th 2013 @ 9:45am
          Gayle said | July 15th 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

          Ha Ha Ha ha Yes , I agree. Good point…..

    • July 15th 2013 @ 8:51am
      Colin N said | July 15th 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      “Indeed his top ten placings in 2005 and 2006 may also have been higher given a cleaner peloton.”

      I was looking at the 2005 Tour results the other day and I think that Evans was the only rider in the top 10 not to be caught up in some doping controversy or another! Ridiculous.

    • July 15th 2013 @ 9:15am
      Andrew said | July 15th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Yes, I have to agree too, if you have a strong team to back you up things will be abut different. Don’t knows what happened to vanderen this tour. And was dropped so early on the climb??…..,! Froome looks like a superman on the climbs and looks like he is on something?…… Go Cadel , we hope you ll make it to the podium ,,,!, we still believe in you .

    • July 15th 2013 @ 11:20am
      Mark W said | July 15th 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      Has he made any comments after last night’s pathetic effort? He finished in the same group as Gilbert FFS!

      • July 15th 2013 @ 11:59am
        Jamie said | July 15th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        I wouldn’t have said “pathetic” – I’d be freaking impressed to ride up the thing – let alone race up it. But he’s response on twitter this morning is as follows:
        “The worst thing about being dropped so early? You have so much time to be p—-d at yourself. Thxs for the support today-I needed it!”

        • July 16th 2013 @ 1:43am
          kc said | July 16th 2013 @ 1:43am | ! Report

          Plugging myself here… I was there on Ventoux yesterday (after camping all night before and waiting in the sun for 8 hours for the riders), flag in hand. Cadel saw me. Cadel was thanking me 🙂 🙂 🙂

          p.s. Froome looked fresh as a daisy… Cadel looked spent. Glad to hear he made it the rest of the 4.8km or so after he passed me.

          • Columnist

            July 17th 2013 @ 7:28pm
            Sean Lee said | July 17th 2013 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

            Good on you KC. Wish I could have been on the mountain with you. Sounds like you had a great day!

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