Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur has little idea how Cadel Evans will be formally feted at next year’s edition of the Australian WorldTour event for an illustrious career that will end one week later at the 2011 Tour de France champion’s own event on February 1.
Suffice to say, adds Turtur, it will be memorable. And, judging by Evans’ impact on the event in his nine starts since the tour's 1999 start, the public will play a huge role.
Turtur is leaving the fine detail for any official tribute to Evans’ for his achievements to the management of the race owners, Events South Australia, a branch of the South Australian Tourism Commission which is liaising with Evans’ BMC team on the celebrations.
But when it comes to which teams will fill the peloton of 20 teams at the 2015 WorldTour opener, Turtur says he doesn’t even know exactly which squads will line up. The UCI confirmed today that only 17 teams have applied for WorldTour licences.
Albeit, it is still uncertain that the vacant spot left by the amalgamation of Cannondale with the Garmin Sharp organisations will even be filled. Hence the UCI’s final decision, expected in early December, will impact the Tour Down Under from January 17-25.
As Turtur told Cyclingnews this week, it could allow for an extra wild card to be granted if there are only 17 World Tour teams race in 2015.
Evans will race the Australian Championship in Buninyong in Victoria before heading to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under.
However, even with the national title race set to become a platform of celebration for the 37 year-old rider’s retirement, Turtur indicated that a special adieu is in place for Evans in Adelaide, saying: “The organisation have been talking to the team since the announcement [of his retirement].
"It will be determined by what the team have in mind and what we can do to acknowledge Cadel and what he has done for the sport over those years.
"Something will be done, but at the moment I think it’s just in the planning phase."
Turtur said Evans has been a major draw in every start he has had in the race, and was quick to cite four memories in particular.
Turtur first recalled Evans' stage win in 2002 when he rode for Mapei and took out the fifth stage from Gawler and through the wine region of Barossa Valley to Tanunda.
There was his return in 2010 as world champion when he lit up the race with his attack on Willunga Hill on the second last day to finish in third place and claim sixth overall.
Then there was his aggressive race this year when he placed second overall after winning stage three from Norwood to Campbelltown after attacking up the Corkscrew climb.
Turtur compares Evans’ ride that day to his 2009 world title victory at Mendrisio, saying: "The Corkscrew stage [win] was like the world championship he won in Mendrisio, when he was on his own and those guys were sort of team trialling to try and bring him back. It was great to see, fantastic, a real highlight of this year’s race."
An extra wildcard could be invited for the Tour Down Under if there are only 17 World Tour teams in 2015. The start for Uni SA-Australia national team is once again locked in.
"That’s a given," Turtur said. "We have a pretty strong relationship with Uni SA to support the national team for Cycling Australia and what it has done for many years. We will obviously honour that arrangement and make sure they get on the start line."
Remaining entries are yet to be determined; but Drapac is reportedly awaiting confirmation of their ProContinental license to shore up their position in Adelaide.
"At this stage it’s not confirmed," Turter said. "But once that has been established and everything is in place for next year we will discuss it further and see where we go with that one.
"There will be an announcement I reckon in about two or three weeks’ time."
Turtur said he has spoken with MTN-Qhubeka about possibly racing in Adelaide. “It depends on the final number of World Tour teams,” he said, notwithstanding the team’s reported willingness to step up to WorldTour status for 2015 in any case.
"At this stage there is still uncertainty about that last spot. If there are only 17 [World Tour teams] registered for next year that would leave the opportunity open for us to award an extra wild card."
Turtur believes MTN-Qhubeka has the roster to compete at the Tour Down Under, especially with Australian Matt Goss, American Tyler Farrar and Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagan and Belgian Serge Pauwels among their major recruits.
"They have signed some pretty impressive riders,” he said. “There is no question about their roster."
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)
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