Cadel farewells cycling with fifth place in namesake race in Geelong
Arguably the greatest Australian road cyclist in history, Barwon Heads’ Cadel Evans AM (BMC) has closed out his historic career with an inspired performance at the inaugural UCI 1.1 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Approximately 75,000 spectators turned out to see the 115-strong field of international and Australian riders race through Geelong, Evans’ home town of Barwon Heads and Torquay, a fantastic result for an event only in its first year.
Evans, the first Australian to ever win the Tour de France, marked the end of his career finishing in fifth place among a pack of his World Tour colleagues.
“To end one phase of my life and to begin another, it is just fantastic,” said Evans post race.
“I have dedicated my life to this sport, I discovered the passion for cycling as a 14 year old in the ‘90s and I have been a full time professional for 20 years.
“For me it is all about giving back to the sport that has given me so much over the years. I am forever grateful for this sport and anyone who ever supported me along this journey,” said Evans.
Evans was candid about his plans for day one of retirement.
“I think I am going to go for a little ride, and then I promised my boy I am going to take him fishing.”
Cycling Australia was pleased to recognise Evans’ outstanding career, presenting the cycling pioneer with a book signed with thousands of messages and signatures from fans.
Evans was part of a small group of eight leading riders who contested the finish, with Belgium’s Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick-Step) sprinting to victory ahead of Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin).
“It was incredibly aggressive racing,” said Evans. “I was happy the make front group at first. It was almost like riding a world championship.”
World Tour classic specialist Meersman was thrilled with the victory.
“I’m really proud. This is the first time [the race] has been organised so I’m really happy,” said Meersman who won a stage at Paris-Nice in 2012.
“[The course] was really hard, we had Belgium weather conditions so it worked for me. I really like short steep climbs so it turned out to be a great race for the whole team.
“In the beginning it wasn’t easy, we had a lot of wind. When we arrived on the shorter loop course I think most of the peloton was already on the limit.
“The team rode really well, I said I was feeling good and they trusted me so I’m really happy I could finish it off.”
75,000 spectators braved the wet and windy conditions to cheer on the riders along almost every metre of the 174 kilometre course, inspiring the riders through the tough conditions.
“Today was magical, the roads were lined everywhere and going past Bells Beach was pretty special,” said third place winner Nathan Haas. “That’s something I will remember for a long time.”
How the Race Unfolded
115 riders started the wet 174 kilometre road race which took riders around the scenic course, including Geelong, the picturesque Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula.
Earlier in the race, Port Fairy’s Darcy Woolley (African Wildlife Safaris), Josh Taylor (Charter Mason), Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli), Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) formed a breakaway before Brodie Talbot (Budget Forklifts) bridged.
The break gained a four and a half minute advantage before Didier fell and was forced to withdraw at the 60 kilometre mark.
With 80 kilometres left to race, a change in wind direction and pressure from Cannondale-Garmin caused the peloton to split, catching Evans out before a concerted chase from Evans saw the two front groups re-form.
As the riders descended onto the Geelong foreshore to cross the finish line for the first of four times, Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) tried his luck off the front before being reeled in on the run out of town.
Almost immediately a counter attack ensued from Jack Bower (Cannondale-Garmin) and Maxime Bouet (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Darren Lapthorne (Drapac Profressional Cycling) before Western Australia’s Robert Power joined.
Calvin Watson (Trek Factory Racing), Alex Clements (Jayco-AIS U23 Team) and Patrick Shaw (Avanti-Racing) joined the leaders with 30 kilometres remaining.
However it wasn’t to be for the young break, with the pace of the peloton on the smaller loops around Geelong proving too much before the final selection formed 15 kilometres later.
Tasmania’s Clements was awarded the Mapei young rider jersey, Meersman took home the Medibank sprint competition while teammate Maxime Bouet (Etixx – Quick-Step) was awarded the Subaru King of the Mountain. BMC claimed the teams classification.
Reflection on Cadel Evans’ career.
When Evans was just 17 years of age, he placed fifth against the elite men at the 1994 UCI World Cup in Cairns, despite only being a junior at the time.
This achievement was considered so significant that the top five riders were invited onto the podium, and to this day, mountain bike podiums still host the top five riders.
It was clear Evans was a natural on the mountain bike, claiming the overall winner’s title at the 1998 and 1999 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Series, as well as seventh at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, but in 2001 he switched to road racing and never looked back.
Between 2001 and 2009, Evans rode for Saeco, Mapei, Team Telekom and Predictor-Lotto, before joining BMC Racing in 2010 after winning the 2009 Road World Championships, in Switzerland.
However, it was in 2011 that Evans became a household name, becoming the first Australian to win the Tour de France.
Since this achievement, Evans has continued to succeed on both the home and international stages and just last year he finished third at the Giro d’Italia, becoming the first Australian to stand on the final podium at all three Grand Tours – the Tours of France, Italy and Spain.
He was also honoured with The Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to cycling and the community.
Evans’ extensive resume includes many victories, such as claiming the Tour de Romandie in 2006 and 2011, representing Australia at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, claiming gold in the road time trial at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and silver in the road race, placing in the top ten on six different occasions at the Tour de France, including runner-up in 2007 and 2008, as well as claiming the points jersey at the 2010 Giro d’Italia and overall UCI ProTour winner in 2007.