From the pages of Velo: The 2011 Velo Awards — Stage Racer of the Year

A lot of people thought the sun was setting on Cadel Evans, who was looking to become cycling’s latest bridesmaid

Editor’s note: is presenting selections from the January 2012 edition of Velo, the magazine’s 24th annual awards issue. It’s only a sampler — so if you want the full scoop, pick up a copy of the January 2012 edition of Velo.

Stage Racer of the Year: Cadel Evans

A lot of people thought the sun was setting on Cadel Evans, who, at 34, was looking to become cycling’s latest bridesmaid. But Evans knew better, skipping the Ardennes classics and the Giro d’Italia this year to focus on the Tour. He started his season with overall wins at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Romandie, and finished second overall in June behind Bradley Wiggins at a measured Critérium du Dauphiné.

Though he was on the losing end of two of the Tour de France’s smallest margins ever (23 seconds to Alberto Contador in 2007 and 58 seconds to Carlos Sastre in 2008), not many people gave Evans much chance of success in the mountainous 2011 Tour.

Defying convention, BMC brought a brawny, classics-style squad for the Tour to protect Evans through the brutal opening half of the race, a tactic that proved decisive as Evans rode into the battlegrounds of the mountains relatively unscathed while scores of his GC rivals were either banged up or out of the race. The Schleck brothers missed a shot at distancing Evans in the Pyrénées and by the time Andy Schleck uncorked his stage-winning attack to the top of the Galbier, Evans had things under control. The veteran Aussie single-handedly rode at the nose of the GC group up the entire Lauteret and Galibier summits to keep Andy on a short enough leash to allow him to take it all back and more in the final time trial near Grenoble, which he’d seen at the Dauphiné.

Schleck finished second for the third time in a row while Evans finally got his just rewards in what was a long, difficult quest to become Australia’s first Tour de France winner.

More Velo awards from the January 2012 edition of Velo

Coming Friday: Most courageous racer of the year