The Roar
The Roar

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Who do we follow when Evans is gone?

What does Australia's future hold without Cadel Evans? (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Expert
5th June, 2014
14

Michael Matthews was about to claim his maiden Giro d’Italia stage win when photographer Tim de Waele released the shutter of his camera to freeze the moment in time.

In an almost Biblical pose, Matthews was captured in the fashion of a crucifix with arms extended sideways, elbows slightly bent and palms facing outwards.

His head is tilted back as he looks to the sky. His dusty face exudes radiance. All that is missing is an illuminating shaft of light spilling from the heavens.

Behind him however, the scene changes. Appearing from beneath Matthews’ outstretched right arm is Cadel Evans. While Matthews sits high on his bike, torso upright and relaxed, Evans is hunched over his handlebars, fighting for all he is worth just a bike length behind.

Just as Matthews appears to be basking in the glory of God, Evans has the expression of a man who can feel the fires of hell licking at his cleats.

It is a remarkable photograph, not just because of its pleasing composition and the way it has brilliantly captured the emotion of the moment, but because of the succinct way in which it has foretold the future of Australian road cycling.

It really is a case of out with the old and in with the new.

It is no secret that Evans, for so long the mainstay of Australian hopes in pro-cycling, is in the twilight of what has been a magnificent career, but I wonder how many people realise what his eventual retirement will bring?

We will get a taste of it at next month’s Tour de France. For the first time in many years Australia will not have a general classification rider of its own to cheer on into the wee small hours of the night.

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I’m not sure exactly how that is going to feel.

Of course Australian riders will make their presence felt in France, hopefully stealing stages wins and being involved in breakaways, but there will be nobody at the pointy end overall. There will be no one to edge into that top ten graphic that the broadcasters put up on our screens at the conclusion of each day.

And the situation may not change for sometime yet.

Richie Porte is rightfully considered to be the heir-apparent, but will he ever get his opportunity at Team Sky? Not while Chris Froome is numero uno he won’t. His importance as Froome’s right hand man overrides any personal ambition, at least in the eyes of his team’s management.

It has been well documented that Porte had been pencilled in to lead Sky at this year’s Giro, only to be withdrawn in the lead up. Illness and a disrupted preparation were the official reasons given, and there may be some truth to that. But rumour persists that Porte was less than happy with the decision, and that it was made to ensure Froome had the best available help for his Tour title defence.

The situation doesn’t look likely to change any time soon and while Porte stays at Sky he will always be playing second or third fiddle.

The only other general classification option on the radar is Rohan Dennis. The young Garmin-Sharp rider came to prominence last year with a spirited display at the Criterium du Dauphine, finishing 8th overall after spending some time in the leader’s jersey.

The boy can ride but it is too early to tell whether he can survive in the high mountains or sustain the effort required to complete a successful three week Grand Tour.

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After that, the cupboard is bare.

There are talented riders coming through, led by Matthews and the up-and-coming Caleb Ewen, so Aussie supporters need not despair. But the long nights of sitting up and cheering on a genuine general classification contender have come to an end.

And cycling in this country will be a little poorer for it.