Cadel Evans admits his number one priority in this year’s Tour de France is to just finish the thing and make it to Paris, no matter what place he finishes.
Evans, the reigning world champion, came into the Tour hoping to build on a solid Giro d’Italia and dreaming of doing better than his second-place finishes in 2007 and 2008.
But with one climbing day left, on Thursday’s 17th stage to the Col du Tourmalet, and a penultimate stage time-trial on Saturday, Evans is way off the pace of leader Spaniard Alberto Contador in 24th overall, 33:13 adrift.
“I’m just trying to get to Paris first,” Evans told reporters on the Tour’s second rest day as he came to terms with the fact that, for the second year in a row, he will be getting nowhere near the podium.
It is a far cry from three years ago when Evans scored the first of two successive runner-up places, missing out on making history for Australia when he lost the yellow jersey by only 23 seconds to Alberto Contador.
In 2008, and despite also riding through the pain barrier having also crashed in the first week, Evans finished second as another Spaniard, Carlos Sastre, beat him to the top prize.
His 2009 campaign was condemned almost from the start, when his Silence-Lotto team flopped badly on the stage four team time trial. Evans battled on, but eventually finished 30th as Contador beat Andy Schleck to the crown by four minutes.
Once again, BMC team leader Evans has been riding through the pain barrier. Evans says he doesn’t recommend even riding, never mind racing, the Tour with a fractured elbow, which he suffered in a freak crash inside the first week.
“I’ve never had to race a Grand Tour with a broken limb, and it’s not something I would recommend, but in respect to my team and to the organisers who gave us an invitation I have continued,” he added.
Although he took the yellow jersey the next day, the pain became too much on the first high mountain stage to Morzine-Avoriaz, where he lost the race lead to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck a day after a rest day in which he had to return home early from a training session.
“I took the yellow jersey and obviously that gives you hope for the rest of the race. There was no way I was going to quit while I was in the yellow jersey,” he said. “But it has been really uncomfortable to ride, the descents were the hardest thing at first.”
“I had to come home early from my training session (on the rest day) in Morzine,” he said. “Even putting my socks on in the morning has been a bit of a struggle.”
Since then it has been a struggle simply to finish stages, never mind producing the quick bursts of energy needed to join the breakaways where more sustained periods of endurance come into play.
As Contador and Schleck wait for Thursday’s stage, which may decide the destination of this year’s yellow jersey, it seems Evans has accepted that this year, it simply wasn’t to be.
He admitted, however, that a heavy schedule at the start of the season, as well as competing in this year’s Giro d’Italia may have emptied precious resources.
“Mentally I was okay, but physically I was exhausted,” he said. “Obviously it’s not where we want to be (in the race). I always try and do my best, and considering what has happened this is the best I can do.
“You just have to accept these things. Being disappointed doesn’t bring about a miraculous turnaround in fitness.
“As far as the GC (general classification) goes I’ll just have to wait till next year.”