Before Cadel Evans (BMC) completed his last ever WorldTour race on Sunday with his third place finish in the Tour Down Under, he was given a reminder of one of the reasons why he will not miss the sport. In the final and sixth stage of the race – a 91km circuit race in Adelaide – he narrowly avoided being caught up in a mass pile up.
The crash happened right behind Evans, who still finished in the front group that fought out the stage, won by Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Drapac) in a sprint. Evans was relieved that he avoided the crash and also hold on to his third place, overall at 20 seconds to Australia winner Rohan Dennis (BMC).
"I heard the crash and a bike hit me in the backside ...," he recalled of the incident, adding that is showed one more time before he rides off into the sunset of an Australian summer next Sunday that: "Anything can and does go wrong in this sport."
"I will probably miss the adrenalin, but close calls like [that and what] we had the other day at 80kmh at Mount Barker … I have seen enough of those."
One more race before retirement
Evans' retirement will become official and final next Sunday at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong. He will race on a new BMC SLR01 bike, painted ocean blue, adorned with aboriginal markings and various insignia ranging from the world champion's stripes for his 2009 world road title win on the seat tube to a decal for 'Tin Tin' and another that reads 'Forever Grateful' referring to his gratitude for the sport he feel indebted to.
Evans still has a week to go as a professional cyclist. But on Sunday, he was still given a true champion's cheer by race followers in Adelaide as he was called up to the podium for his third place at the Tour Down Under. Evans was clearly emotional as he addressed the cheering crowds.
"Like it says on my bike, I will be forever grateful for all that cycling has given me. It has given me a lot of hard lessons, a lot of harsh experiences, a few bangs along the road and quite a few days in hospital over the years, but it has given me so much pleasure. I have met so many wonderful people. I have come to so many wonderful places in this sport … so much more than I ever hoped for. Thank you everyone."
More than a farewell race
Asked about next Sunday's race that organisers Victorian Major Events hope will earn World Tour status within the next three years, Evans said: "One more race: the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race. I hope to have an event that fits in nicely with the Tour Down Under [that] will make cycling [a] bigger [and] even better event in the Australian summer for an international scene here in Australia, a bit more than what we already have now."
"It's probably for me [a chance to] give back to the sport that has given me so much over the years – [it's] the best way I can go out of the sport. And as a sports person, to have an event named after you while you are still alive is something."
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media).