Cadel Evans knows he's been beaten by cheats before. Despite the omnipresent doping controversy at this year's Tour de France, the Australian is focused on nothing other than bringing his country its first Tour victory, reports Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson.
Australia's reputation on the international cycling scene has skyrocketed in the past 15 years, with the country now considered among the top cycling nations in the world, especially in the hyper-competitive area of men's road cycling. Despite its successes at almost all other levels and disciplines of the sport, one victory has eluded its riders: a Grand Tour victory. The Tour de France's maillot jaune has been worn by several Australian riders, most recently by a flying Brad McGee and a tenacious Stuart O'Grady. But to take the leader's jersey as the race hits the mountains and reaches its destination in Paris is another thing. The country's greatest road cyclist, Phil Anderson, came close twice during the '80s, finishing in fifth place in both 1982 and '85. However, Anderson did secure the maillot blanc of the race's leading 'young rider' in 1981.
More than two decades would pass before another rider matched Anderson's accomplishment, with Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans finishing fifth in the general classification at last year's Tour. The 30 year-old Evans is currently on track to become the highest place finisher of all his countrymen at the world's most prestigious race, as he effectively holds second place on GC, but it's one position higher Evans is eyeing off.
"Back in London we had two goals," Predictor-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant explained on Tuesday's rest day. "The first was to win a stage, which we did with Robbie [McEwen]. The second was to be on the podium in Paris with Cadel, and right at this moment he is in third place with five days to go. So we're on schedule. We're going to need to do everything we can to keep him there or maybe to improve."
A lot can happen in two days at a Grand Tour, and the period since Sergeant made the comments hasn't been any different. Since then the Tour's leader, Michael Rasmussen, has been axed by his Dutch Rabobank ProTour squad. The Dane's sacking should see Evans take back second place on GC once the order reshuffles at the end of today's stage - depending on how the day unfolds, of course.
"To be honest, I am happy to have [the mountains] behind us," he wrote on his website, cadel.com.au. "[The stage was] a bit of a mess at the start, with some riders trying to protest. I thought we were here to race our bikes, not to make political statements."
To read the full feature on Cadel Evans, click here.