In Thursday’s CyclingNews, former professional Robert Millar utilised his column inches to talk about Cadel Evans and his 2014 Giro d’Italia.
Millar didn’t bother to discuss the fantastic ride that Evan’s has put in so far at the first of this year’s three Grand Tours, not did he think it important to mention the wealth of experience that Evans has accrued over the years.
Indeed, the Scot, of whom I was a huge fan as a kid back in the 1980s, saw no point in considering the fact that Evans has a proven track record as the winner of one Grand Tour, none less than the Tour de France, the blue riband event of the world’s stage races.
A feat, it is worth noting, that Millar never managed himself – his best was fourth at the Tour in 1984 and two runner up placings at the Vuelta a Espana.
Instead of considering these salient points in regards to Evans’ chances of winning the Giro, Millar penned a one-sided and overtly negative article that leaves one wondering just what Evans ever did to the Scotsman.
Furthermore, it reads as further evidence of a vast underestimation of Evans’ talents that underlies a great deal of reporting where the BMC leader is concerned.
“Unlike the other pre-race favourites for the Giro d’Italia crown current race leader Cadel Evans hasn’t had any real bad luck to hinder his racing,” writes Millar.
“His team’s opening time trial was similar to main rivals Movistar, way better than Katusha’s struggles and compared to Garmin’s memories of Ireland it was a relatively stress free start.”
Yes true, but some members of Garmin, Katusha and Movistar rode so badly that you’d imagine a team of juniors would have fared better had they been plonked down there in the middle of the start list.
Millar then says that the reason that Evans has yet to crash is as much down to his skills as to good fortune, which is ungenerous at best.
He then goes on to discuss the chances of Evans having some bad luck with something approaching glee.
“It won’t last though because there a couple of things you learn when you ride a Grand Tour: one is that you will have a bad moment and another is that you are more likely than not to fall off at least once,” Millar writes.
Condescending? I certainly feel that it reads that way. Evans has ridden a Grand Tour or two as well, and the fact that Millar omits any mention of this is remarkable.
You don’t win a Tour de France on luck alone, and indeed you don’t come second on it either.
Nor do you win a Rainbow Jersey, nor a classic, on luck. Nor do you bring a Kazakh hardnut close to tears on the muddied white roads of Tuscany by not being one hell of a rider.
Millar then goes on to claim that Evans lost any moral stature, by what the Scot considered unfair play , after Evans and his teammate pushed on in the final climb of Stage 6 after two crashes saw several of the pre-race favourites hit the deck.
“More importantly it [Evans’ ride after the crash] signals to the other teams the moral level at which this Giro will be conducted and that might just be Cadel Evans undoing,” Millar continues.
“One hint of a problem, one mechanical, one puncture, one natural break taken and it could well be the signal for all hell to be let loose on BMC and the Australian.”
The “moral level”? I’ve never heard such tosh. If we’re talking about the “moral level” then let’s discuss Michael Rogers, Clenbuterol, ‘the list‘, and the UCI screwing that posse of pooches up. Or how about talking about Fluo Yellow and their inclusion in the race?
Maybe Robert Millar could have mentioned the fact that Anne Gripper considered Evans to be the cleanest of all the Grand Tour contenders of the era during which Gripper was the head of the UCI anti-doping department, having seen virtually no fluctuations in his blood levels during her reign.
Or he could have mentioned that Gripper – and Tyler Hamilton – considered his 2010 Tour de France win to have been a victory for clean cycling.
Of course, who’s to say who is or has been clean or not, though one could argue that if anyone will know, Gripper is a good bet. However, Evans’ form rarely fluctuates, and he was seen as boring and unadventurous, often being the bridesmaid, in an era when doping was rife. Yet after a spate of positive EPO results seemed to have forced riders either to put the needles down for a spell or to move to micro-dosing, Evans thrived.
His win in the World Championships was brilliant, brave and courageous, and who can ever forget that ride in the 2010 Giro on the Strade Bianche roads? Similarily, when he won the Tour in 2011 he rode intelligently and with great heart, winning over many a doubting cycling fan.
Finally, Millar speaks about what Evans will do if his BMC team crumbles and he’s left to his own devices, but in doing so he betrays a desire to overlook another obvious point, and that is that Evans has been on his own for so many years in races when the going gets tough.
He’s rarely had the luxury of a super strong team around him, a factor that has something to do with him having not won more big races than he has.
Perhaps Millar is touchy still, even after all these years, about that ‘Stolen Vuelta‘ in 1985, but the article he penned comes across as tightfisted at best, petty at worst.
Evans just lost the Giro lead on Stage 12 after a brilliant ride from Uran Uran, but that should not detract anything from the achievements of this quiet legend.
When he finally hangs up his cleats, he can look back proudly on an illustrious career that was carved out of the hard, black stone of the EPO era.