By Andrew Hood
This weekend, mountain bikers will converge in Madrid for the opening roundof the 2002 World Cup, but one very familiar and competitive face won’tbe there.
Cadel Evans walked away from mountain biking last winter to take a chance on the road and so far he has no regrets. Mapei made the 25-year-old Australian an offer he couldn’t refuse: a two-year deal to ride for one of the world’s best road teams. Evans is currently taking part in the Giro d’Italia, where he is first lieutenant to Stefano Garzelli.
VeloNews’ Andrew Hood recently sat down with Evans to talk about his adventures so far on the road. Check out the May 20 issue of VeloNews for a full report on why some of mountain biking’s biggest names are going to the dark side.VeloNews: How are things going so far with Mapei?Cadel Evans: “I’m really happy here. I like the fact that they’refocused on the big picture. They’re a big team, racing in the World Cups,the Italian races, the big tours. Everything is just right. It’s very professional.They look after all the details. I like the management, the team chemistryand the attention and motivation of the staff.”VN: How are you getting along with the Italians?CE: Real good. They always have these different nicknames forme. Each race they make up a new one. I’m ‘Gianni’ this week because theysay I have a head that looks like Gianni Bugno. That’s not a bad guy tobe compared to. My first roommate was Andrea Tafi at Tour of Malaysia.We had a good week.”VN: What are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed betweenthe road and mountain scenes?CE: “You race a lot more on the road. I’ve already done 31 racesthis year (by early April), just about as many as I would do in a wholeseason in mountain biking. There’s nothing the same between the road andmountain bike. …The positioning in the bunch has been one of the biggestadjustments for the road races. Whether it’s where you have to be beforea climb, in a crosswind or a descent, it takes time to learn that. Mountainbikers are all good bike handlers, but on the road it’s completely different.While racing on a mountain bike, you’re at your limit, going as fast asyou can. In road racing, you’re at the mercy of the bunch. In mountainbiking, you can slow if want to or make an attack, but on the road youhave to go as fast as everyone else, whether you want to or not.”VN: In mountain biking, you line up every race to win. In roadracing, it’s very different. How has that transition been?CE: “For me it’s been a relief. In mountain biking, if I didn’twin the first question would be what went wrong. … In mountain biking,you know the race very well so you know where it’s dangerous or more difficult.By the second lap, you’ve memorized the course. In road racing, unlessyou’re racing at some local race, you’re racing a 100 days on roads you’venever seen before.”VN: The most difficult element of road racing to master?CE: “On the road, you have no idea what’s coming up the nextbend. You’re looking 5 to 6 riders ahead. You just hope that if it’s alrightfor them, it’s alright for me. Cornering is completely different. My habitswon’t change in a day. In mountain biking, the bike leans but the bodydoesn’t. In road racing, both the body and the bike lean into the turn.”VN: Has racing on the road met your expectations?CE: “It’s more than I expected. Maybe I was ignorant to it, butit has such a deep history. The fans that come every year. There’s alwaystalk about what happened in previous races. How Cipollini attacked hereor so-and-so did this. It really adds to the drama of the race.”VN: Were you surprised by your success on the road last year?CE: “A little of the surprise is that I’ve only been in a fewroad races last year. I think I could have done better in 2001 if I hada better chance to get ready because all the racing I’ve done up to nowhas been secondary to mountain biking.”VN: Will we see Cadel Evans at a mountain bike race anytime soon?CE: “The door will always be open if I want to do some mountainbiking. At the moment, the road is my focus. For me, I’m thinking long-term.I came to the road scene at a good time. I raced 7 years on the mountainbike. I’m 25 years old. If I had waited any longer, it could have beentoo late.”