Cadel Evans has confirmed that he will bring the curtain down on his professional career at the inaugural Great Ocean Race on February 1 next year. The Australian’s decision to retire had been widely rumoured in recent months and he brought an end to the speculation with a specially-convened press conference in Ponferrada on Thursday ahead of the weekend’s world championships road race.
Evans will race in BMC colours at the Australian championships and the Tour Down Under next January, before stepping into a new role as a global ambassador for the bicycle company following the Great Ocean Race.
Though Evans said that his decision had been informed by many factors, he revealed that his performance at this year’s Giro d’Italia, where he slipped to 8th overall after leading the race during the second week, had convinced him that the time was right to hang up his wheels.
“I was not close enough to the level I wanted to be at or the level the team hoped I would be at, and that also shows that at least in the three-week races, the chances of winning another grand tour is probably past me,” Evans said.
“These things aren’t easy to accept but factors on the bike, in races, in the team and factors in my own life make you think that maybe now is the right time to say ‘thank you’ and watch from the side lines.
“I knew all along that I had no intention to race at the highest level at 40 years of age. I never looked at age as a limiter but I just had a thing in my mind that I didn’t want to be a high-level racer at 40 years of age, so inevitably the stop was going to come.”
Perhaps fittingly for a man whose greatest attribute was his consistency of performance across all terrains and through the entire length of the cycling calendar, Evans cited his longevity as the greatest achievement of a career that yielded Tour de France victory in 2011 and a world title in 2009.
“I think I’m still the youngest ever winner of a World Cup in mountain biking, back in 1997 when I’d just turned 20, and then I’m also the oldest post-war Tour de France winner,” Evans said. “That shows longevity but also the consistency I held in between. That’s something I look back on and I’m proud of it.”
Heartbreak and happiness
The old adage says that a cyclist will inevitably know more heartbreak than happiness, and for much of Evans’ career on the road, right up to that 2009 world title, he seemed destined to be something of a nearly man. He finished second in two consecutive Tours de France, for instance, missing out by under a minute on each occasion – he was just 23 seconds down on Alberto Contador in 2007 and 58 behind Carlos Sastre the following year. He also endured a near miss at the 2009 Vuelta a España, while illness hampered him at the 2010 Giro d’Italia, but he looked back on such setbacks with considerable equanimity.
“I had a lot of 2nd and 4th places,” he said. “At the time you think it’s very unfair or unjust but sometimes these are things you learn from and you come back a better or stronger rider. If I hadn’t such bad luck earlier in my career, maybe I’d have a won a world title earlier but not in 2009. If I hadn’t such bad luck in earlier Tours, maybe I’d have won a Tour earlier but I wouldn’t have won the 2011 Tour in the way I did.”
Indeed, while Evans acknowledged that his 2011 Tour and 2009 Worlds victories are the memories that will endure in the public consciousness, he cited his second place finish at the 2008 Tour, obtained in spite of a cruciate ligament injury, as a personal highlight.
“It was physically and mentally very draining. That was the hardest Tour de France of them all. It was harder to come second there than to win in 2011, physically and emotionally,” Evans said. “Personally, coming back from the bad circumstances probably stands out more than anything.”
Asked if he felt that his Tour victory was a credible one following the doping scandals that tainted the races of the preceding decade, Evans said: “I hope so, I can speak about my own credibility. I’m proud of the fact that I could perform consistently over the years, give or take a few periods of injury and illness. There were others who won a lot more than I did, or performed impressively on important days, but I’m proud that I go away after performing consistently over a long period of time.”
Evans was also hopeful that his career had contributed to the popularity of cycling in his home country, and he marvelled at the long road he had travelled from the Northern Territory to the Tour de France.
“I started watching Miguel Indurain on television, and I thought, ‘winning the Tour de France, what do I have to do to win this?’ And then from then on, I started to have a one-track mind to do everything I could to be a professional, and then a good professional,” he said.
“Compared to when I started cycling in Australia in 1992, the mentality has changed now. When 15 year olds go to parties and say they’re bike riders now the girls’ eyes probably light up as opposed to looking the other way. It’s given me nearly everything I have in my life. I can’t say in a short answer what the sport has given me.”
Evans’ contribution to BMC was praised by manager Jim Ochowicz, who persuaded him to join the team on the eve of his victory at the Mendrisio Worlds five years ago. “He had a need and I had a need. I needed to get the BMC Racing Team into the Tour de France and Cadel needed a team that believed in him, and we have proven that to be beneficial to both of us over the past five years,” he said.
Evans will line up in the Worlds road race on Sunday and at the Tour of Lombardy the following weekend before bringing the curtain down on his 2014 season. In spite of his imminent retirement, he insisted that he would prepare for his short 2015 Australian campaign diligently.
“I was second at the Tour Down Under this year by 2 seconds, the narrowest second place in a stage race in my career,” he said. “I’m going to race those last races in Australia like they’re my last races – that is, with everything I’ve got left.”
1st Tour de France 2011
1st Tour de Romandie 2006, 2011
1st Tirreno–Adriatico 2011
1st Giro del Trentino 2014
1st Critérium International 2012
1st Settimana Coppi e Bartali 2008
1st World Road Race Championships 2009
1st La Flèche Wallonne 2010
1st points classification, Giro d'Italia 2010
2nd Tour de France, 2007, 2008
3rd Giro d'Italia 2013
3rd Vuelta a España 2009
- 2014 - BMC Racing Team
- 2013 - BMC Racing Team
- 2012 - BMC Racing Team
- 2011 - BMC Racing Team
- 2010 - BMC Racing Team
- 2009 - Silence - Lotto
- 2009 - SIL
- 2008 - Silence - Lotto
- 2007 - Predictor - Lotto
- 2006 - Davitamon - Lotto
- 2005 - Davitamon - Lotto
- 2004 - T-Mobile Team
- 2003 - Team Telekom
- 2002 - Mapei - Quick Step
- 2001 - Saeco Macchine per Caffe'