Photos: Roberto Bettini
Born in the remote Australian town of Katherine, Northern Territories, 31-year-old Cadel Evans has made a successful transition from champion mountain biker to top road pro. Currently in his eighth season on the road, Evans came from a brilliant career on the dirt where the tough Aussie won the World Cup in 1998 and 1999. Cadel was bank for the legendary Volvo-Cannondale team and his consistent off-road riding made him one of the favorites for the 2000 Olympics Cross Country MTB race, where he ended up seventh. But Cadel had already started his transition to becoming a pro roadie, as he rode with Saeco for part of the 1999 season and won the Tour of Tasmania stage race.
After the Olympics, Cadel went back to Saeco in 2001, where he had a successful rookie road season, winning the Brixia Tour and the Tour of Austria, with a notable mountaintop finish win atop the Kitzbheler Horn. In 2002, Evans went to Mapei-Quick Step, at that time the number one team in cycling. The 25-year-old Aussie shone from the get-go, with a top-ten finish at Paris-Nice, taking over the Giro d’Italia race lead in the Dolomites for one stage, but Evans blew spectacularly on the final ascent
to Passo Coe’ and ended up 14th. Later that year, Evans won the Commonwealth Games TT in Manchester, England.
For Evans, 2003 and 2004 at Deutsche Telekom and T- Mobile were lost years, with few results due to injury and a bad fit at the German squad. It was only at the end of 2004, when he finally got healthy, that the real Cadel Evans emerged, winning the Tour of Austria for the second time and going on to fourth places at Milano-Turino and the Giro di Lombardia in October. In 2005, Evans moved to Davitamon-Lotto, where he continued his strong comeback, with a stage win and fifth overall at the Tour of Germany, and a solid spring classics campaign; fifth in Lige-Bastogne-Lige and ninth in Flche Wallonne. But it was his first and long awaited participation in the Tour de France that showed Evans the road forward in his cycling career. As Lance Armstrong took his seventh straight Tour de France ahead of Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans finished eighth overall, 11′ 5.5′ behind Armstrong. Cadel had shown he could be a Tour de France rider in his first shot.
2006 was a great leap forward for Evans, as he had found a team he felt comfortable with in Davitamon-Lotto and settled in for some major progress. That came at the Tour de Romandie in May, where Evans won Stage One and the overall. In the Tour de France, Evans ended up fourth as he moved up after the disqualification of Floyd Landis for doping and also had three other solid top-ten finishes in major stage races (second Tour of Poland, eighth of Tour of Basque Country, tenth Tour de Suisse). This just set the stage for 2007, where the talented Aussie showed the world that he was a force to be reckoned with.
Placing fourth in the Tour of Romandie in May, Evans refined his pre-Tour form as runner-up at the Critrium du Dauphin Libr in June. At Le Tour, Evans valiantly battled the Discovery Channel’s dynamic duo of Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer throughout the 2007 edition, with only teammate Chris Horner to support him. In the end, Evans was a strong runner at the Tour de France to Contador, just 31 inches behind the Spanish sensation and the first Aussie ever on the TdF podium.
But Evans didn’t rest on his laurels in 2007 after his great Tour ride; following a mediocre Vuelta d’Espana appearance, the Aussie was fifth at the World Road Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, and then sixth at the Giro di Lombardia. When ProTour leader Danilo DiLuca was stripped of his title late in the season by the UCI because of alleged involvement in the ‘Oil For Drugs’ doping scandal, Evans was rewarded for clean and consistent riding throughout 2007. Back in the Land Down Under, Evans then won two prestigious honors in Oz, first being voted Australian Cyclist of the Year, then Sportsman of the Year at the Australian Sports Awards; the only awards in Australia to recognize achievements across all sports in all areas of sport. Earlier this year, Road Bike Action caught up with the friendly, well-spoken Australian at his European home near Mendrisio, Switzerland, with an exclusive
RoadBikeAction: Cadel, 2007 was the biggest year yet in your career. You took the overall title in the ProTour, were second in the Tour de France and finished up as Sportsman of the Year in Australia. What’s next for you in 2008?
Cadel Evans: My main goal is to continue my progression at the Tour de France and then to do well at the Beijing Olympics. I did the test event in 2007 and the course is hard, so it could be good for me. I should probably come out of the Tour with good form, and that will help me at the Olympic games. Yeah, it’s not a bad course for me.
RBA: How about the Tour de France? Have you taken a good look at the course?
Cadel: Well, one thing about the Tour this year is that there is less time trialing, which is not to my advantage, but there is a lot of climbing, which is good for me. So the course looks challenging, but I like that.
RBA: At this point, it looks likely that Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour De France, will not compete. Cadel, how do you feel about that?
Cadel: It makes it more unpredictable having one less team that can control the race and ride for the general classification. But there is a long way to go until the Tour and I know Contador’s participation is being discussed, so I hope he’s on the starting line in July.
RBA: If Astana riders Contador and Leipheimer are not there at the start of the Tour de France in July, who will be the main rivals for you in the 2008 Tour de France?
Cadel: Certainly, Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) will be ones to watch. Menchov was very strong in last year’s Vuelta; he was almost untouchable there.
RBA: Cadel, how will you prepare for the Tour de France?
Cadel: I will race the Dauphine’ Libere’ in June, and of course, look at the key stages of the Tour so I know what to expect.
RBA: What is your contract status with the Silence-Lotto team?
Cadel: I have a contract for 2008 and an option to renew for 2009-10. I feel comfortable at Silence-Lotto and it’s a team that is more dedicated to me and my goals; so far that is good.
RBA: One thing I know about being a successful pro cyclist is that besides riding your bike, you can’t do it all yourself. Who are some of the key members of Team Cadel?
Cadel: That’s right…I work very closely on a day-to-day basis with Roberto Damiani, my direttore sportivo, whom I have know since I worked with him during my days at Mapei. I always kept in touch with Damiani so when I re-signed with the team in 2006, [team manager] Marc Sargeant asked me if I had anyone in mind for a director who could work with me and I asked for Damiani. He was very enthusiastic and that has been a big change for me in the day-to-day situation with the team. He helps me with a lot of legwork before the races and keeps me insulated from all the stress before and during the race.
Dr. Aldo Sassi is another one; I have also worked with him from my Mapei days and Sassi is my preparatore; I go to the Mapei Sports Center in Castellanza, near Milano for my testing. I also work with a Belgian osteopath, David Bombeke, who works with the Silence-Lotto team. And of course there is my wife Chiara. She helps me a lot by organizing things at home and motorpacing me. She is out there in the cold and wind on the scooter and that really helps my training to have her help me!
RBA: Last year, American Chris Horner was on the Silence-Lotto team with you. Will you miss him in 2008?
Cadel: It’s too bad Chris left, but that’s cycling. He was really good…a lot of fun to have around on the team and helped me in the races. I liked having Chris on the team.
RBA: Now you have Yaroslav Popovych on Silence-Lotto; how do you think it will work out with him?
Cadel: Up until now, I haven’t worked much with Popovych, but I know he is a really strong rider and very professional. When the possibility to get him came up last year, he was my first choice for a strong teammate. He learned a lot from riding with Lance Armstrong at Discovery and he was eighth in the Tour last year so I think he will be very good.
RBA: Cadel, you were a top mountain biker before you transitioned to the road in 2001 on Team Saeco. Do you ever have any nostalgia for those mountain bike days?
Cadel: Absolutely! I enjoyed my time as a mountain biker and it was good training to become a pro road racer. I still love to ride my mountain bike in the forest; I don’t get to do it very often, but I don’t think my love for mountain biking will ever change.
RBA: When you were a young mountain biker many years ago in 1996 and riding as a protagonist in the Tour de France VTT, did you ever think you might be a protagonist in the road version of the Tour?
Cadel: Sure, in my dreams I did, but I never thought it would happen.
RBA: Despite a slow start as a road rider, with some injuries and three unlucky broken collarbones, do you think you have made the transition to road riding that you wanted?
Cadel: Well, despite some bad luck at the beginning, in my first Grand Tour I took the leader’s jersey, and that was something special at 25 years old with only one pro season behind me. I am pleased with my career and still believe I can make a lot of progress and improve as a rider.
RBA: So where will we find Cadel in ten years? Will you still be racing?
Cadel: [Laughs] I don’t think I will be doing the Tour de France! Seriously, I haven’t thought about it much…I think I will be involved with cycling in some way. Probably helping young riders. I’ve had the chance to do this over the last few years, and I really like it. I had people help me when I was a young rider, and so I think it’s important to give something back to the sport.’
The 31-year-old Evans is just now coming into his prime years as a stage racer and Evans is one of the very few top racers who most cycling insiders consider completely clean. Untouched by any taint of Operacion Puerto or other doping, his clean and honest approach will certainly help the talented Aussie continue to progress in a sport that now looks like it’s cleaning up its act. Will the Southern Cross flag of Australia fly atop the Champs-Elysees on Sunday, July 27th? It’s still too soon to say Evans is ‘the’ favorite for the 2008 Tour de France, with riders like Carlos Sastre and the Schleck Brothers of Team CSC, Denis Menchov of Rabobank and Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d’Epargne also looking good, but Evans looks most likely to take that one single step to the top of the Tour de France podium.