By Shane Stokes
Two days after what is arguably the biggest win of his career, Predictor Lotto's Cadel Evans has commented on his victory in the 2007 ProTour. "This is certainly a major highlight for me," he told Cyclingnews. "For me, it is something that I will always have the rest of my career. A world title or a Tour win would be bigger, but certainly to be world number one for the year is very prestigious."
Evans was lying second overall in the competition in the run-up to the final event, Saturday's Giro di Lombardia, but became the outright leader when Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) was disqualified from the series last Friday. The Italian has appealed that Union Cyclist International decision to Court of Arbitration for Sport, but Evans appears to have copperfastened his win by finishing sixth in the Lombardia. Even if Di Luca is later reinstated by the court of appeal, he will nevertheless finish five points short of the Australian's total.
"I honestly don't know what is going on as regards the details of his situation, what is right and so on," said Evans when asked about the disqualification. "But the fact is that I have got the points, they are all there, and I think I am still owed another five points from the Tour as well [he finished second in the Albi Time Trial to Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), who subsequently tested positive for blood doping]. So that should keep the doubters quiet."
His ProTour success came about thanks to some very consistent riding during the season. He amassed 86 points prior to the Tour de France thanks to seventh in Paris-Nice [15 points], fourth in the Tour de Romandie , second in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré  and third on stage eight of the same race .
Once at the Tour, Evans began his big drive with second overall , second on stages 14 and 20 [5 each] and third on stage 10 . This haul of 88 points was then followed with 45 for placing fourth in the Vuelta a España, and four each for his second places on stages 10 and 18 of the Spanish Grand Tour. Sixth in the Lombardia added another 20 points to his total, resulting in a winning total of 247.
He had a simple tactic for Saturday's Classic. "I just focused on doing a good race and it turned out pretty well," he said. "It was a good afternoon. I was a little bit unlucky near the end, getting something in my eye. That made it a lot harder than it needed to be, but it was a good finish to the year. I am very, very happy."
The problem with Evans' eye meant that he was essentially half-blind on the descents, losing contact with the other contenders and needing to use extra energy to get back in touch. He feels that without this, he could well have been closer to the race victory. "I certainly think I could have been with Riccò and Cunego, although whether we would have been able to stay away or not would have had to be seen. That said, I think I would have had to have been pretty lucky to have beaten Cunego in the sprint. But certainly I think I had the legs to be with them.
"For me, [Fränk] Schleck was the strongest, followed by Riccò and Cunego - I think I was the next strongest there," he added. "It was more a tactical thing that I didn't close them down the last time [when Riccò and Cunego attacked] because [Davide] Rebellin was just sitting on me. I wanted him to do a bit of work, but he wouldn't."
With Di Luca out of the picture, Gerolsteiner's Rebellin finished 50 points back, taking second in the ProTour. Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) was another six points in arrears, placing third.
Evans' strong season form also saw him finish fifth in the world road race championships. However no ProTour points are awarded at that event. He will now travel back to Australia in early November and take some time off before starting to build his condition for the 2008 season, which fittingly starts with a new ProTour race in Australia following the Tour Down Under's inclusion in the series.