Cadel Evans (BMC) has launched his autobiography, "The Long Road to Paris", detailing the Tour de France winners beginnings as an amateur riding on the mountain bike world cup circuit, to standing on the Champs-Élysées in yellow.
Offering a rare insight as to what it takes to conquer the world's toughest bike race, Evans goes through his career with a combination of short quotes, reflections, and race analysis taken from throughout his years as a professional cyclist.
Beautifully presented, the book also features spectacular images from photographers Graham Watson, Tom Moran and Malcolm Fearon.
Preview: The story and extracts
The early years
Evans got into cycling as a youngster and was quickly attracted to "the solace of being in nature". He credits those formative years in dirt and mountain biking, where he picked up the technical skills that make him such a good bike handler today as crucial to his development as a bike rider.
"I just rode more and more because I could, for a start but also because I liked it. I didn't mean to be a bike rider; it was like, 'Oh, this is good; I like this. You can make a profession out of this?" (extract from Long Road to Paris)
As the results built Evans thought more about making a career of riding his bike. After a number of years of success on the elite mountain bike circuit Evans made the switch to the road where he debuted initially with the Saeco-Cannondale squad in 1999. That would launch the start of bigger and better things, and by 2002 while riding for Mapei, Evans gave a glimpse of his future talent when he briefly wore the Maglia Rosa at the Giro d'Italia.
While the book scoots through the period from the early 2000s to 2009, Evans gives a great recount of his success at the 2009 World Championships in Medrisio.
On a day that Cancellara was on a mission to complete a rare worlds double, Evans made an opportunistic move late in the race, and with the other favourites for the rainbow crisis caught watching each other, Evans stormed up the final climb for what would be a fairytale victory on his 'home roads.'
"If we go back to 1994, my first Junior World Championships, when I came second in Vail, and the feeling... you can't understand the sickening feeling when you're standing on the podium and the guy next to you is pulling on the rainbow jersey. But Chiara was always telling me how she saw it: 'One day your honesty will be repaid.' And all of a sudden it was." (extract from Long Road to Paris)
Photo: Graham Watson
Wearing the rainbow jersey at the Giro, and the disappointment of injury scuttling his 2010 Tour
Few Evans fans will forget his win on the day the Giro d'Italia passed over the strada bianca in 2010. Evans showed a masterclass of technical skill on the descents, while other riders struggled, was unperturbed by the tempestuous weather, and scored himself a 'beautiful' victory in Montalcino. Though he would end up falling off the podium late in the race, the stage win will go down as among the most well remembered victories in his road career.
Evans' fifth overall at the Giro was meant to be the prelude to his 2010 bid for Tour success. Having failed to fire in 2009, Evans looked strong leading into the French race and by the first rest day had taken yellow. Alas, few knew at the time but the Australian had fractured his elbow.
An early sign of his injury, Evans uncharacteristically cracked on the Col du Madeleine while the lead group was still healthy in numbers and was a clearly shattered man at the finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
"[The positive that I took from 2010] was that I was able to appreciate just being at the Tour, feeling the atmosphere, being encouraged in almost every accent imaginable. It sure hurt riding on the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées though." (extract from Long Road to Paris)
The 2011 Tour de France
If you looked at the betting markets before this years' Tour de France, Evans was considered an outsider. His 'failures' in 2009 and 2010 had many pundits suggesting the Australian was past it. That would change quickly however with Contador, Sanchez among others conceding serious time in the Tour's opening week.
A strong performance in the team time trial, followed by a show of force in the following week by the red and black BMC squad, were signs Evans and his team meaned business.
As the Tour went on, his critics however continued to forsee the Australian crumbling against the 'more favoured' Schlecks.
But each day Evans would rise to the challenge. Perhaps the day that marked the changing of the tide was on the stage to Gap, where Evans showed plenty of guile and experience to follow a speculative move by Contador and Sanchez. Despite the two Spaniards seemingly working together against the Australian, it was Evans who would dislodge the duo in the run-in to the finish.
Post stage, Evans summarised the difference a year had made to his confidence and mentality.
"This year I was up front, alone, following the moves. The guys – George [Hincapie] and Burghy [Marcus Burghardt] got me in the right position at the bottom of the second last climb. From there I just had to play my cards right. It's all a bit of a blur right now but I think it was a good move and a good day."
For Evans that day, like the team time trial in Les Essarts, like the stage win on Mûr-de-Bretagne was symbolic of his Tour de France.
"Every day the team delivered me to where I really needed to be, and that left me fresh and ready to finish off the job. A large part of Lance Armstrong's success in Tour de France was his strong team. Ours came off the back of a strong team bond." (extract from Long Road to Paris)
Evans would finally take the yellow jersey on the penultimate day time trial, but for many it was his determined defensive performance on the day to Galibier Serre-Chevalier that won him the Tour.
It was the one day Evans rode the stage on his own, without his team. The Australian rode out of his skin, with at one point some 16 other riders in tow to claw back an 'on a mission' Andy Schleck. Despite starting the final climb with a seemingly insurmountable four minute deficit to the Luxembourger, Evans put his head down and by the peak had turned a lost cause into a defining performance.
"That day began as an effort to not lose the Tour, but it ended up as the key effort to win the 2011 Tour." (extract from Long Road to Paris)
Photo: Graham Watson - The realisation of a dream: Evans stand on the top step of the Tour de France podium in Paris.
For a full look at "The Long Road to Paris", the book is available in all major bookstores, and online vendors. RRP is $39.95 AUD. All images courtesy of the publisher Hardie Grant/Graham Watson.