Cadel Evans hopes to inspire Australians with new WorldTour race
Great Ocean Road Race moves up to top tier calendar in 2017
Cadel Evans says that he hopes the promotion of his eponymous race will help boost the reputation of Australian cycling on the world scene. The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was one of 10 races to be added to the WorldTour for 2017, thus giving Australia two races the highest ranking in the cycling calendar.
"We're not exactly opening a new nation because we have the Tour Down Under already as a race in Australia. I hope that having the one-day race following on from the Tour Down Under will complement it and will be better for cycling in Australia, but also the internationalisation of cycling," Evans told Cyclingnews.
"In Australia, we already have a developed culture of cycling, we have a big spectator base, and I think that the crowds at the first edition showed that and that is something we want to improve."
The women's road race will remain at the same level for the 2017 season, but the hope is that it too will join the ranks of WorldTour soon enough. The men's race will move to an earlier slot than its first two editions, putting it the weekend after the conclusion of the Tour Down Under.
As the current rules stand, all WorldTour teams will not be obliged to compete, but the promotion and the proximity to the Tour Down Under should ensure a stronger field. Evans hopes that it will also secure the race's future for the foreseeable future.
"We always worked to have the best race that we could and the highest quality race that we could. For us, as a race organiser, it gives us a much more assurance of the quality of riders that will come and the quality of teams that will come," he said. "We come in as a new race, but that means that we can come in with new ideas and new concepts, in terms of the weekend that we do, and I think that has worked well. The fact that we're going into the WorldTour is confirmation of that.
"Of course, we like to think that we're going to be on the calendar for a long time to come. My biggest thing was to try and have a race that fitted into the calendar, not one that was an extra burden on the teams and riders. I didn't want to obligate them. It's a long trip down to Australia, trust me I've done it more than 50 times in my life - I know how long it is as well as anyone. I wanted something that fitted into the riders preparations for their following races. For something that fits in with the teams and their preparations. For the long-term stability of the race that is important, also I don't want to be a burden on the riders of the teams."
The 2017 edition of the race will be the third running of the event after Evans inaugurated it in 2015. The first race was also Evans' last as a professional rider, and he jokes that he was eyeing up tow-zones in the final three kilometres as he geared up for the final sprint. Evans would finish fifth on that day with Gianni Meersman taking the victory.
As nation's only Tour de France winner, Evans is still a hugely popular figure in Australia, and he sees the race as an opportunity to give back to the country.
"For me, the greatest thing about the race is that it has given me a great avenue to put back into the sport. I have a role with BMC as an ambassador, but I'm only one person, so my reach is limited by the days in the year. With the race, I'd like to think that the women's race is inspiring young females in Australia to possibly take up cycling," Evans told Cyclingnews.
"Then the men's race is hopefully going to add to the world of cycling but also be an inspiration, whether or not it's a three-year-old kid watching the race go by his house or a young junior rider who dreams of winning the race in years to come."
As well as an increased number of WorldTour teams there are other plans in the pipeline for the 2017 edition, which are set to be announced in the coming weeks.
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Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.
By Josh Croxton