Cadel Evans’s breakthrough victory in the men’s road race at the world cycling championships is a turning point for Australian cycling, the sport’s governing body said on Monday.
Evans, 32, grabbed Australia’s first gold medal in the event beating Russian Alexandr Kolobnev and Joaquin Rodriguez of Spain over the demanding 262.2km course in Mendrisio, Switzerland, on Sunday.
It was Australia’s second triumph at the world championships following Jack Bobridge’s win in the men’s under-23 time trial.
Cycling Australia officials said the victories were significant for the sport in this country.
“It’s a real turning point for Australian cycling,” Cycling Australia National Performance Director Shayne Bannan said in a statement. “We’ve won the medal tally, we won the medal tally at the Track World Championships in Poland in March and last month topped the table at the Mountain Bike World’s.
“We’re elated with the team work that has gone into all of this and it’s really very special. We’ve won our first professional world road title. Australian cycling has arrived at a world level.”
The aussie team at the start: cadel evans, stuart o’grady and allan davis: the aussie team at the start: cadel evans, stuart o’grady and allan davis AFP/Getty Images
The Aussie team on the start line in Mendrisio. L to R: Cadel Evans, Stuart O’Grady and Allan Davis
Neil Stephens, Cycling Australia’s Professional Rider Coordinator, said to have a new world champion in Evans would lift the national profile of the sport.
“To have a world champion in Australia is unbelievable,” Stephens said. “Over the years we’ve seen stage winners of Tour de France, yellow jersey wearers in the Tour de France, Pro Tour winners.
“Perhaps this is all we need to have the world champion as an Australian going into the (2010) World Championships in Australia on the shoulders of a very popular Cadel Evans. I think it’s really going to take cycling to the fore.”
Evans, a runner-up in the Tour de France in 2007 and 2008, hit back at his critics after a disastrous Tour de France campaign this year by finishing third on the Tour of Spain last week and winning the world road championship title.
Australia’s only other elite road world champion has been Michael Rogers, who won the time trial three times in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
© AFP 2009.
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