The Final Heroes of the Tour de France: Cadel Evans
Cadel Evans is the Tour de France Champion.
For a long time it looked like it may never happen. But things have changed for Cadel since winning the World Championships in 2009. He became more confident, more aggressive. Then for 2010 he found a new team, a team that truly believed in his ability, and invested in him. In this new environment Cadel really relaxed and seemed so much more comfortable in his role as team leader.
BMC seemed like a bit of a risk on the surface. A new Pro Continental team, they were banking on the presence of Evans and other newly acquired stars to garner invitations to the big races. Cadel performed valiantly at the Giro, wearing pink, taking the epic Strade Bianche stage, and coming home 5th to take the points jersey. He also took a measured and confident victory at Flèche Wallone. His performances guaranteed a Tour invite where he was a contender, taking yellow for a day, but bad luck found him. He soldiered on to Paris with a fractured elbow, doing his best to repay his team’s hard work and support.
For 2011, with World Tour status achieved for the team, Cadel was free to focus his training and racing solely on Tour preparation. For the first time, he arrived at the Tour fresh and with victories at Tirreno-Adriatico the Tour de Romandie, along with 2nd place at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
And Cadel did not disappoint. He road at the front from the start, finishing a strong second to Gilbert on the opening stage, earning himself a TTT ride in a dodgy green skinsuit, held together with safety pins, in which he led BMC to another impressive second place. In stage three came two wins. The stage was his, as was a psychological victory over Alberto Contador, whom he out-spirnted.
This year’s Tour provided a lot of action early on from some of the GC contenders, and Cadel was determined to take every opportunity. He showed his strength and his faithful team kept him on the front and out of trouble through some sketchy and crash-marred stages.
The mountains were next, and Cadel looked good in the Pyrennes, and was confident enough to allow Fränk Schleck to gain some time while he kept Andy in check. In the Alps, he regained the time lost to Fränk plus a bit more on Stage 16, but lost some on Stage 18 when Andy Schleck attacked on the Col d’Izoard. However, Cadel rode within himself and was able to claw some of it back to minimise the damage.
Then the drama of Stage 19 unfolded. Contador attacked way early in an attempt to make up some of his lost time. Shortly after, Cadel had a mechanical issue, losing significant time, and eventually returned to the bunch to regroup for the chase. It was not looking good for the BMC team leader, but he stayed calm and took responsibility for his situation, leading the chase to catch the Schleck brothers, which we succeeded in catching, and then stayed with the to finish. Andy took yellow but, on the podium, looked like a man who knew he was just minding it for the day.
And so it was. Cadel completely dominated his rivals with the TT of his life to take the Maillot Jaune and become the first Australian, and only the third non-European, to win the Tour de France.
Some have criticised Cadel for not taking the opportunity to speak out against doping. Despite his position as a Tour de France Champion and a World Champion, I believe he can’t quite understand why people value his opinion on such matters. It seems like a self-confidence thing. He has been outspoken in his own way. He has talked about lost victories, knowing that dopers has finished in front of him, but did not complain. He trusted the system, which has come a long way in the fight against doping, and now his time has come. And cheats don’t cry on the podium.
Cadel Evans is the 2011 Tour de France Champion – and it feels right.