By Shane Stokes
Cadel Evans won the ProTour classification on Saturday after a consistent stream of steady results over the past four months. Before the Giro di Lombardia, he talked 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.
"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.
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