An interview with Cadel Evans - Part two, October 22, 2007
Cadel Evans won the ProTour classification on Saturday after a consistent stream of steady results over the past four months. In the second part of this feature, he speaks to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about his performances in the Vuelta a España and world road race championships, the Tour Down Under's graduation to the ProTour calendar, his plans for the months ahead and his Olympic aspirations.
After his strong ride in the Tour de France, Evans flew to Beijing and did the pre-Olympic trial events there. He won the time trial, beating compatriot Michael Rogers by 24.74 seconds and Kazakhstan's Alexsandr Dyachenko by 58.6 seconds, and was fifth in the road race behind the victor Gabriele Bosisio of Italy. The combined result saw him win the overall classification and also gave him a good taster of what to expect next August.
"I had to decide before the Tour if I was going to go there or not, and in the end it worked out to be quite a tiring trip with jetlag and so on," he said. "But I really want to do something at the Olympics next year and so it was probably a worthwhile thing to do. I went there with next August in mind. It will be a tough race - both the time trial and road race will be. They are both on the same circuit, so it's going to be hard."
After those results, he came back to Europe, readjusted to the time zone, did some training and then lined out in the Vuelta a España. He rode well throughout the race and was lying second overall up until the end of stage 18. One day later he slipped to third and, batteries starting to run out, he finished sixth in the penultimate day time trial and ended the race fourth overall.
"It was the first time that I had done two Grand Tours in one year. It was a bit of a steep learning curve for me. " -Evans looked back on his 2007 season
"I liked the race," he said, looking back. "Menchov was by far the strongest. I think that he and Sanchez were the riders in front who were good and who really based their seasons around that race. Of course, I was disappointed to miss the podium by 10 seconds in the end, to be so close and yet so far was disappointing. But I didn't go into the Vuelta with a big expectations after travelling to China and doing the post-Tour criteriums and everything. I wouldn't say that I was especially fresh and well-prepared.
"At the end I was having some health problems which were to do with fatigue. People seem to have forgotten now that I was fighting it out with Contador and Rebellin back in Paris-Nice. It's been a long season."
Given that fact, it would have been understandable if he'd been stuck to the road in the world road race championships in Stuttgart, one week after the Vuelta finished. However he bounced back and was actually one of the strongest riders on the day. He said it could have gone either way.
"It was the first time that I had done two Grand Tours in one year. It was a bit of a steep learning curve for me. I know my body but am still always learning new things. I had to wait and see how things would turn out. It could have been good, it could have been bad. Fortunately it was good."
Evans kept his powder dry but on the final lap he was one of those who was involved in the centre of the action. He had the strength to respond to a series of attacks, most notably by defending champion Paolo Bettini, and this ensured that he was in the running for a medal right up until the last few metres of the race.
"We could see that Bettini was very strong," he said, when asked about the finale. "I think you have to consider that guys like Schleck and me are doing a lot of other races during the year. Bettini has been doing a lot of other races but he is not going for classification in Grand Tours. He has also been quiet at times.
"When it comes to the end of the year and he can ride part of the Vuelta and then go home [before the end of the race], then get ready for the world championships, it means that he is at another level. One day races are also his specialty, too."
The Italian's fast finish meant that Evans knew that he would have to get rid of him before the final uphill surge to the line. He was running out of legs, though, and also had some bad luck vis-à-vis the timing of his late attack.
"I was pretty tired on the last lap," he stated. "I tried in the last kilometre [to go clear] but someone, I think it was Schumacher or Schleck, closed me in the gap and that slowed my acceleration. I had the legs to get away, although whether or not I had the legs to stay clear is a matter of discussion. Of course with Bettini being there, I really had to get away [before the sprint].
"It wasn't so much tactically [that it didn't work], it was more just physically I got closed in at the front and I had to brake and then re-accelerate. However at that point, given that it was in the last kilometre, you only have one shot at it. That was mine."
Evans felt it wasn't worth sitting put and aiming for a medal. "At that point in the race I was thinking that I wanted to win. I didn't want to come second here, so I had to attack to do that. Maybe if I had hung on and then had a good sprint and a bit of luck, perhaps I could have got third. But that is not what I wanted. I wanted to risk everything for the victory."
As things stand, his sole ProTour win [apart from the overall series] this season could be the Albi time trial. And that's if Vinokourov is ultimately found guilty of doping and disqualified. The outcome of that won't be known for a few months yet.
With his season now completed, Evans will head home to Australia shortly. He's got a clear idea of what he will do there. "I will see my family, have a break, have a rest. I'll also do everything that I wanted to do during the season but couldn't, because I was too busy training and travelling and racing."
Getting home offers a change in culture when compared to Europe. "There are a different air and a different mentality in Australia," he said. "The cycling fans have a different approach to the races than they do in Italy or Switzerland, too. That is kind of refreshing."
Those fans will also have the chance to see the ProTour close up next season when the Tour Down Under takes its place as one of those races. Evans thinks it's a good move for both the series and the country itself.
"It is great for the race and it definitely deserves to be ProTour," he said. "It is of the same level as other ProTour races. In terms of geographical location and logistics for the European teams to get there, I would imagine it is going to be a bit of a test for them, but also I would imagine the UCI are trying to internationalise cycling. It is a step in the right direction."
The big question will be if he plans to start the race? For now, he is undecided due to what has to be a major focus on hitting top form next summer. "Everyone is asking me if I am going to do it. I don't know yet," he answered. "My priority for next year is the Tour de France in July, so I think the Australian cycling fans would like me to keep that [goal] in mind. Hopefully they will keep that in mind as well!
"I haven't looked at it [his planned programme] closely yet. I want to concentrate on finishing this season first. But of course I will be going to the Tour again, and I will then consider the Olympics. I will probably do the same as this year, but maybe be a little less noticeable at the start of the season."
Of course, whether he competes in the Tour Down Under or not, Evan's status as the 2007 ProTour champion adds to the boost that Australian cycling has received in the past month. Getting a round of the series and then the white jersey of the outright winner are both big pluses for the sport, and one which can only help in the growth of interest and participation there.
Read Part I of this interview with Cadel Evans.