Recently-crowned world road race champion Cadel Evans said winning the coveted rainbow jersey will not change his ambitions to win the Tour de France.
Evans, a former two-time runner-up on the world’s toughest bike race, made history for Australia when he won the elite men’s road race at the world championships near his home in Mendrisio, Switzerland last Sunday.
Yet as achieving one of his childhood dreams sinks in, Evans doubts whether the scale of his feat was fully appreciated by mainstream Australia, where cricket, rugby and Aussie Rules dominate the media headlines.
“You have to do something special in cycling to get on the nightly news,” Evans said in an interview with sportza.be on Thursday.
“Breaking through and winning it is a bit of unchartered territory for cycling fans (in Australia), so they’re taking it and running with it.”
As some of cycling’s biggest champions – including Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault – did before him, Evans can now wear the rainbow jersey while racing up to next year’s world championships, to be held in Geelong, Australia.
Having forged a reputation as an eternal runner-up, with near misses in some of the few one-day classics he races in Europe as well as at the Tour and the Dauphine Libere stage race, Evans has also and rather unfairly been criticised in the past for not attacking.
On Sunday he shot down that unwanted distinction winning the 262.2km epic thanks to a late attack which stunned his chasing rivals. Still, Evans is not about to foresake his quest for glory in the Tour de France for success in cycling’s tough one-day classics.
“Whether I won on Sunday or not, it doesn’t change my mentality or work ethic towards my job. It’s actually my first victory in a one-day race that’s not a time trial, so I probably should stick to my stage races – that is my day job!” added Evans, who appeared annoyed when it was put to him that he won because he’d attacked.
“I don’t ride that many one-day races, so I don’t get much of an opportunity to excel at them, I’m always concentrated on training for the Tour.
“And it’s not like I haven’t attacked in the finals of of big one-day races before, like (the) Saint Nicolas (quarter) in Liege=Bastogne-Liege or the Mur de Huy (in Fleche Wallonne), or being in the final of Lombardia. “This was one attack that really came off.”
Evans is currently Australia’s best chance of claiming an historic yellow jersey from the Tour de France, which he has finished runner-up in 2007 and 2008.
And despite a catastrophic racing campaign at the Tour in 2009 that was also blighted by illness, Evans still dreams of topping the Tour podium.
“I’ve been working to win the world champs for 16 years now and for it to happen so quickly … it’s just starting to sink in,” he said.
“But my goals will remain the same. I’m still working hard to finish the season off as best I can, I try to go to bed early, do my training - my mentality and work ethic is exactly the same.”