MILAN (VN) — Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is back racing after one of his longest breaks since he began racing. The Tour of Oman and next week’s Tirreno-Adriatico will, he hopes, act as a stepping stone towards another Tour de France win. If not, there is always Tejay van Garderen.
“When you have to stop, you have the motivation that you’d normally use to train and race, you are using it to think and reflect. Your hunger builds to comeback,” Evans explained last week in a small press gathering. “So, I’ve had time to prepare well.”
The 36-year-old Aussie clawed his way to a Tour de France win in 2011. He fought off the Fränk and Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador to become the first rider from his country to win the prestigious event.
Last year was different. Evans and his wife Chiara traveled around the world and adopted a baby. A virus took hold while he was juggling his commitments and ruined his season.
Always a fighter, Evans fought tooth and nail throughout the Sky-dominated Tour and managed a seventh-place result.
In Colorado, only halfway through the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, he ended his season. Almost six months passed between Aug. 25 and this month’s Oman. As Evans said, he had time to think and reflect on his career.
“The Tour wasn’t the hardest, but it certainly wasn’t easy,” Evans said. “When you can’t perform, you have to ask why. When you don’t have the answer that becomes frustrating. I was not back to my normal level until august. Having won [the Tour] the previous year, I was just not there to make up the numbers.”
From white jersey to Tour winner
Van Garderen eventually had his own room on the team. In the Pyrenees Mountains, he rode free when Evans drifted behind. After finishing seventh in the final time trial, he secured the white jersey of best young rider and fifth place overall.
The 24-year-old American is aiming higher in 2013. He began his season by taking second in the Tour de San Luis.
“Cadel still has a couple more years left in him,” van Garderen told VeloNews in an interview last October. “I can learn from him and he can still be the leader. But eventually I think I will try to learn to step into the leadership role myself and learn how it’s done so I can take it all the way to the end.”
Evans seemly brushed off the idea of van Garderen already leading the team this year.
“If I don’t perform at the Tour, my main goal is to contribute to the team as best as I can,” Evans said. “Normally in a hilly stage race that’s by doing a good GC. If I’m not capable of doing that then I’ll have to look at other ways of contributing to the team, but let’s see. Let’s see what my abilities allow me to do in terms of contributions to the team.
“Can Tejay win this year? From white jersey to Tour winner in a year, I don’t know if that’s ever happened in history. Jan Ullrich? He won both in his first attendance. Eddy Merckx … I think Tejay has started off in a good position. At his age and after only 12 months … I wouldn’t want those expectations on me.”
Evans remains determined to give the Tour one more shot despite his age. He wants to take on the Sky juggernaut, Contador, and lead BMC Racing to Paris.
En route, he races Tirreno-Adriatico, the Critérium Internationale, Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné, and squeezes in a high-altitude camp at Sierra Nevada.