It seems incomprehensible looking at his palmarès now, but back in 2011, Cadel Evans, twice a podium finisher at the Tour de France, world champion two years previously and almost a winner of the Giro d’Italia the year after, was effectively written off.
“I remember reading some criticism from a team manager of a French team who said that I was finished,” Evans recalls to Cycling Weekly. “I was, he claimed, just a one-day rider now and was no more.”
As the adage goes, it was fuel loaded onto the fire; an inferno that was already well ablaze within the BMC Racing ranks and the Evans household. So unlucky in the past in his quest to become Australia’s maiden Tour winner, Evans was determined to right the wrongs of 2010, when he failed in the Giro and the Tour.
2011 was to be his year. “There was little expectation externally,” he explains, “but within the team we were ambitious, doing the work on a well-defined program, and all it needed was to repeat 2010 but have some luck this time.”
Everything came to together as he dominated early-season stage races en route to finally winning that elusive yellow jersey.
To understand the scepticism of Evans, we have to rewind to the beginning of 2010.
The former mountain biker, resplendent in the rainbow jersey and coming off the back of a win in La Flèche Wallone, went into the Giro d’Italia as a hot favourite. He was in pink by the end of stage two, but then a bout of untimely diarrhoea knocked him, dropped him as low as 15th before he roused to finish fifth.
At the subsequent Tour de France, he moved into yellow following stage eight, despite that being the day where he fractured his elbow.
After the first rest day, holding a 1-01 advantage to Alberto Contador, he cracked on the Col de la Madeleine, finishing a lowly 26th in Paris. The rest of his season petered out.
A pattern had emerged, so went the narrative. Through luck, misfortune, or perhaps other matters, when pressure dialled up, and Evans had the favourite tag around his neck, he buckled.
To read the rest of this feature, and find out how Cycling Weekly magazine inspired a young Cadel Evans, pick up a copy of the Jan 13 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine, available to buy in store and online. You can also subscribe to CW, save on the cover price and get it delivered each week. January subs sale now on!
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