Former world champion comes up one second short
All accolades go to Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) for maintaining his one-second general classification lead over runner-up – and rival – Cadel Evans (BMC) and a consistent Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) on the sixth and final stage as he become the first rider in the Tour Down Under's 16-year history to win the race on three occasions (2006, 2012). However Evans created headlines of his own when the former world champion and Tour de France winner hinted at possible retirement at the big bike race in South Australia.
"If Adelaide will have me back it that would be so cool for this to be my last racing appearance," said an exhausted Evans. "Don't be so sure this will be my last Tour Down Under.
"We are all getting older but I don't think I am too old just yet to race and be competitive," continued Evans, who was making his first race appearance since 2010 when he was ninth overall. "It was a different Tour Down Under than any I have ridden before and that showed in the performance I could do."
Evans, who captured his first ochre leader's jersey on Stage three before surrendering it – along with eight seconds – two days later after being outgunned by Gerrans on the infamous Willunga Hill on Stage 5.
While German sprinter Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) celebrated Australia Day by claiming his second stage win of the this year's and 16th of his career – the most of any other cyclist in Tour Down Under history – a retrospective Evans talked humbly of his performance, team and his future in a post-race press conference.
"We came here for the core group for the Giro," said the 36-year-old from Australia's Northern Territory. "We prefer to win, that's what we're hard-wired to win. To lose by one second shows that we're in a good way."
Evans will forego this year's Tour de France to in order to focus on the Giro and a highly anticipated showdown with Richie Porte (Sky), who finished fourth overall today after taking the Queen stage yesterday.
A patriotic Evans showed his appreciation for the 766,000 fans that lined the routes across South Australia this week. "That race is fantastic," said Evans. "The fans really make this race and this ambiance, I am so pleased, so proud of us as a cycling nation, but also a sporting nation, to see this event and what the ambience makes of us."
Evans told media on Thursday that of the six-day race, there were only two stages that ideally suited his style, while Gerrans and his Orica-GreenEdge squad had four. Evans took stage three fwhen he attacked on Corkscrew Hill, but was unable to hold off a tenacious Gerrans to claim his first Tour Down Under.
"I took my best judgment on the road, you have to be satisfied with how it went," he said. "To be second by one is not such a bad performance."
In a semi-private press conference that included Cyclingews, Evans, who turns in 37 on February 14, talked about his future plans and said that while he might have raced his last Tour de France that his main focus was getting back to his 'top level' for the Giro d'Italia before making assessments about his career.
"Ever since I was about 20, I didn't want to retire from the sport having any regrets in terms of not having tried harder or worked harder," shared Evans. "I wouldn't want to retire early thinking six months down the track: 'I think I could be up there at the front beating those guys.'
"You don't want to cut yourself short," he concluded. "But you don't want to be trying to squeeze any more than what's actually there."