Cadel Evans aims for more Tour de France glory
The first Australian to win the Tour de France admits his momentous achievement has made it tougher to stay the same Cadel Evans.
THE first Australian to win the Tour de France admits his momentous achievement has made it tougher to stay the same Cadel Evans.
When he opens his title defence in the Belgian city of Liege this Saturday, Evans will face vastly different circumstances to a year ago.
The oldest Tour winner since World War II is banking on some hard-earned wisdom as he aims for successive titles.
“I’m not a new man – they call me an old man now,” the 35-year-old joked.
“I live in the same house, I hope I have the same lifestyle, I have the same attitude to my training.
“Not a lot in my life has changed – everything around me changes, which sometimes makes it hard to not change yourself.”
Evans is one of three 34-year-old Tour winners. The oldest champion was Belgian Firmin Lambot, who won his second title in 1922 aged 36.
The Australian only switched from mountain biking to a road career in 2001, so in racing terms he is still reasonably “young”.
Of course, winning the Tour automatically means life will never be the same.
But consider what else has happened since Tina Arena sang the national anthem for Evans on that memorable Sunday in Paris last July:
* Evans is a Dad, with he and wife Chiara adopting Ethiopian toddler Robel.
* Andy Schleck, Evans’ main rival last year, is out injured.
* Schleck’s RadioShack-Nissan team will also be without manager Johann Bruyneel, who has decided to stay away. Bruyneel is a co-accused in the new doping charges filed against record seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong.
* Alberto Contador, another key rival, is sidelined with a doping suspension.
* British rider Brad Wiggins, who crashed out last year, is the No.1 favourite following some stellar form. His Sky team, featuring Australians Richie Porte and Michael Rogers, will mount a formidable challenge to Evans’s BMC line-up.
* BMC have recruited well, with Tejay van Garderen and Philippe Gilbert now key lieutenants for Evans. Thor Hushovd was also meant to add firepower, but he is sidelined through illness.
* Tour organisers have shaken up the course, with much more time trialling likely to help Evans. There are also some new steep climbs outside the Alps and Pyrenees.
* Evans has had a slightly-different build-up and that has meant less big results. But he remains quietly confident.
“It’s been a good progression for me into the Tour and in some ways, not having some race results, it keeps people’s attention away from me,” he said.
“That also helps make life a little bit easier.”
The other obvious big change this year Tour is that there is finally an Australian Tour team.
Orica-GreenEDGE are enjoying a strong debut season and they are taking a smart approach.
Instead of aiming for the overall Tour title, their focus will be stage wins through Matt Goss, Simon Gerrans or Swiss rider Michael Albasini.
Goss might also challenge for the points classification.
Team director Matt White said it has not quite sunk in that the team is about to finally achieve a long-held dream in Australian cycling.
“It’s weird – at the moment, it’s very surreal that we are going to the Tour de France as an Australian team,” he said.
“It’s going to be an interesting feeling when we get to the start next week and we see all the support and also for all the other Australians in the race.
“But for us, lining up together, it’s going to be very special.”
As the Tour’s Australian influence continues to boom, the 2010 record of 11 starters from this country should also be overtaken. – AAP