MILAN (VN) — Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) will begin the end of his cycling career Sunday when he lines up in the road race at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships on home roads in Vitoria. After a winter’s break, he will start the 2015 season and his last three events before retiring next month.
His schedule includes the nationals, the Santos Tour Down Under stage race (January 20-25), and on February 1, the event he created — the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
“I had some regrets and bitterness, but I go away happy and I know I gave the most I could,” the 37-year-old said when he announced his retirement in September.
“I know I inspired people to take up sport. I tried to always be the best professional, whether it was in the results sheet or outside of that.”
The results often showed Evans’ name at the top.
In the 17 grand tours he started, he won the 2011 Tour de France, placed second twice — behind Alberto Contador in 2007 Tour and Carlos Sastre in 2008 Tour — and was third in both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España. His grand tour run ended in September with a 52nd place in the 2014 Vuelta a España.
Evans also won big one-day races — the 2010 Flèche Wallonne and the road race at the 2009 world championships — and smaller stage races like the Tour de Romandie in 2006 and 2011, Tirreno-Adriatico in 2011, Critérium International in 2012, and his last big overall win, the 2014 Giro del Trentino.
Nicknamed “Cuddles,” Evans will not likely fade away over the next month; fitting to his character, he’ll most likely fight to the end. And with retirement and a job as BMC’s ambassador on the horizon, the 37-year-old will race more motivated than ever before.
He escaped with Richie Porte (Sky) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) last January and placed second to Gerrans in the three-way battle for the national title. At the Tour Down Under, he won a stage and placed second overall to Gerrans.
Gerrans is recovering from a broken collarbone that will sideline him until later this spring. Porte, eight years younger, could be Evans’ toughest competitor given he won the national time trial title Thursday. There are others, too, like Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Simon Clarke and Cameron Meyer (both Orica).
Brit Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Belgian Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) are to race the championship Sunday, but will add to Evans’ list of rivals in the Tour Down Under.
Even if Evans is nearing retirement and is 37 years old, fans should not discount him. He was discredited in the past and pulled off a surprise victory in the 2009 worlds in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Two years later, he beat grand tour stars Alberto Contador, Fränk and Andy Schleck, and Thomas Voeckler for the Tour de France title. Fighting the odds is in his nature.
“I was consistent from the start. I am the oldest post-war Tour de France winner, I’m proud of that, my longevity. I wanted to leave the sport without any regrets,” Evans said.
“I am going to race with all I have and prepare the best I have to be as best as possible.”