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How Cadel conquered the world

By:
Les Clarke
Published:
September 28, 2009, 7:52 BST,
Updated:
September 28, 2009, 9:37 BST
Race:
UCI Road World Championships, Men's Elite Road Race
Cadel Evans smiles as he presents his medal and jersey in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cadel Evans smiles as he presents his medal and jersey in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

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It's often said that talent isn't much without hard work. But what about when talent and hard work aren't accompanied by a dose of good old-fashioned luck?

Cadel Evans is living proof that when the three are combined the results are spectacular.

Considered Australia's preeminent grand tour rider, for a long time Cadel Evans has also been a notable protagonist in one-day races such as La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

On Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland, he showed the world why this is the case, with a perfectly-timed attack in the final five kilometres of the 262km world championship road race. Consequently, he'll wear the rainbow stripes for the 2010 season.

While many of his fans in Australia associate the man born in Katherine, Northern Territory, on St Valentine's Day in 1977 with the Tour de France - second-place finishes in 2007 and '08 being the reason - this latest achievement could well be his lasting legacy to the sport in his home country.

What was required for this victory, however, was ample servings of talent, even more hard work and of course, some good luck. Speaking after his win, Evans himself admitted as much.

"As for how it happened - I was in the right moves and in the right place at the right time - I was a little bit lucky as well," said the Australian.

From a young age, Evans talent has been clear to see, and he's also renowned for being one of the hardest workers amongst the pro peloton's elite; there was only one thing missing: a slice of good fortune.

And while he could be forgiven for wanting to forget most of 2009 - save for a podium place at the Vuelta a España - Cadel Evans' ride in the world title decider so close to his European base has turned a throwaway season into a seasoned vintage.

Why the sudden change in status? The (not-so) simple answer: luck.

The gods must be crazy

During his 2009 Vuelta a España campaign, Evans endured a mechanical issue at precisely the worst moment - on the opening slopes of the final climb on stage 13 to Sierra Nevada - which lost him over a minute on general classification. He was then slapped with a 10-second penalty - adding insult to injury - for taking a bottle from his team car.

It cost Silence-Lotto's captain any chance at the overall win; a dogged performance in the face of this bad luck earned him the final podium place.

The reason he was competing in Spain arose from the ruins of his Tour de France effort this year - 30th overall after suffering the ill-timed effects of illness and a 'difficult' team dynamic that steeled his resolve to take what he could from 2009.

At home he struggled for support from the media, which was riding high on the 'Lance factor' in La Grande Boucle, and the runner-up who had been a darling of the press just 12 months before was considered yesterday's news.

With a cumulative deficit of 81 seconds over the course of two editions of the Tour de France, Evans himself began to wonder what he had to do to win the event. If he could just get into the ear of Lady Luck and have a quick word...

To his credit, Evans maintained his perspective in the face of the criticism and vowed to chase those goals that remained open to him - the Vuelta, the world championship road race and his beloved Giro di Lombardia, the classic that arguably suits him the best and is run virtually on his doorstep.

Mendrisio calling

With his Vuelta result in the bag, Evans approached the world championships in a relaxed fashion, content to see nations such as Italy and Spain carry the tag of favourite into the event.

This approach worked perfectly in the race itself, with the Australian watching for moves from the Spanish armada, which boasted the likes of recently-crowned Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde, Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez and eventual third-place finisher Joaquin Rodriguez.

"When the big group went with Michael [Rogers] I thought, 'Michael's going to be the one to make our result today' but I saw a few things with the Spanish and they were getting panicky; then I thought, 'Oh no...' Simon and I were both leaders of the team and it was going to be up to us to play our cards again," explained Evans after his win.

Having followed Fabian Cancellara's race-defining move in the closing stages of the race, Evans turned his attention to Spain's big hitters; following Rodriguez's move before attacking on the climb of Novazzano were key to realising a dream.

"It's funny - when you dream and work for something for so long, when it actually happens you don't believe it," said Evans. "For me it's been a 16-year dream. It's been a while in the making... but to come through in the elite [road race] is really something special.

"To win the world championships in our sport... I don't know if it's winning the Tour de France but it's not far off it!"

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