Cadel Evans will not be on in the peloton at the 2015 Giro d’Italia but the Australian was on hand at the route presentation in Milan on Monday, where he was honoured by RCS Sport on the occasion of his retirement.
Evans announced last month that he will bring the curtain down on his professional career at the Great Ocean Race on February 1 next year, and on Sunday he lined out in his final race on European roads, the Tour of Lombardy, which he finished in 25th place.
“Yesterday I was there to help the team rather than look for a result myself but my legs weren’t bad,” Evans said at Milan’s Palazzo del Ghiaccio. “I gave everything for the team but I was able to enjoy the race too. It’s a splendid race and it was a beautiful day, without rain for once too. It was a nice mix of emotions.”
Although Evans never won the Giro d’Italia, his career is inextricably linked with the corsa rosa. He announced his arrival as a top level road rider at Mapei when he wore the pink jersey in the final week of the 2002 Giro, only to crack on the road to Folgaria the following day. He reached Milan in 14th place overall on that occasion. “Missing out on the pink jersey in 2002 gave me a crazy appetite in the years that followed,” he said.
Evans returned to the Giro as reigning world champion in 2010, winning the stage over the Strade Bianche to Montalcino and again holding the maglia rosa for a day. Illness interrupted his progress in the final week of the race, but he finished fifth overall in Verona.
In 2013, Evans finally claimed a podium spot, finishing third behind Vincenzo Nibali, while this year, he led the race for four days before slipping to eighth place on general classification. Evans said the descent of the Gavia on this year’s Giro was among the hardest moments of his career.
“For the first time in my career, I wasn’t thinking about GC, I was just thinking about my health and how I didn’t want my son to see me end up in hospital,” Evans said. “The snow was so heavy that you couldn’t see the crash barriers on the road side.”
Evans was interviewed on stage at the Giro presentation by Gazzetta dello Sport editor Andrea Monti, and presented by RCS Sport with a special plaque to commemorate his career.
The most beautiful moment, Evans said, took place just over the Italo-Swiss border in 2009, in the finale of the Mendrisio World Championships. “I was riding towards home and towards the finish line at the same time, with all of the world behind me and just the finish in front of me,” he said. “The line was 2.5 kilometres from where I live. It was a moment where I didn’t know if I was there or if I was only dreaming.”