Could Australian fans see world champ's jersey at home in 2010?
Cadel Evans' victory in the world championship road race last Sunday has eased the pain of what has been a year to forget for Belgian squad Silence-Lotto.
Unveiling the world champion's new kit at the Omega Pharma headquarters in Nazareth, Belgium, company boss Marc Coucke paid tribute to Evans' achievement, saying it's the crowning moment of the organisation's involvement with the team.
"In the last five years, together with the national lottery, we have sponsored talented young riders to bring them to a higher level," Coucke told reporters. "But in those five years we have never achieved a great victory like this. We were the champions of the podium places but we continued to invest in our team."
This season has seen the team struggle for results, with podium places and significant wins difficult to muster. Add to this the difficulty surrounding Thomas Dekker's enforced dismissal for doping before his arrival at the team and it has been a tough 2009. The outcome of the race in Mendrisio erases some of these memories, however.
"After five years we have reaped the benefits," continued Coucke. "And finally with this breakthrough by Cadel Evans we have the world champion within our ranks. I was happy when he crossed the finish line first in Mendrisio."
Speculation about Evans' future abounded during this year's Tour de France; Jurgen van den Broeck's strong performance and the apparent lack of team support for the Australian had observers questioning whether he would stay with the squad.
A departure would have required buying out his contract and as such he has remained with the Belgian outfit. Judging by the atmosphere at the press conference on Thursday, any rifts have been dealt with and the business of riding in the rainbow jersey the primary concern for both parties, particularly Evans.
"After 16 years, in that world title race on Sunday I finally did it," said Evans. "In my country there was no excitement about my title. There isn't such a great cycling culture there as in Belgium, but it is slowly making an impact."
And Australian fans may be treated to a rare sight: a local racing in their home country as world champion. With Silence-Lotto one of the teams racing in the opening ProTour event, it's a possibility. "During the Tour Down Under in 2010 I would like to see my shirt in every home," said Evans. "I want that jersey to be a promotion for the sport [in Australia]."
There are several races to finish the Australian's season before then, however; the Coppa Sabatini, Giro dell'Emilia, Giro del Piemonte and Giro di Lombardia this month, providing him with the first opportunities to ride in the rainbow stripes. "I'm looking forward to it," said Evans, beaming.
The Silence-Lotto rider said he's obviously happy with the world crown but admitted, "It wasn't easy constantly dealing with bad luck and setbacks. The title makes me feel great. I had underlined worlds in red [on the calendar] next to the Tour de France and the Vuelta. I wasn't the protected rider from the Australian team. That honour fell to Simon Gerrans."
Coucke also alluded to Evan's run of misfortune, particularly this season. "Cadel is a phenomenon and a perfectionist in his profession. His whole career was punctuated with setbacks, but now he's finally succeeded," he said.
As for the closing kilometres of Sunday's race, Evans said that although he normally hates seeing images of himself racing, the finish in Mendrisio is an exception. "How many times I re-watched the pictures already? To be honest I have several times," admitted Evans.
"And normally I'll never look at pictures of myself. The first time I they saw the footage at home with my wife Chiara we were both in tears," he added.
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