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“Comings second in the 2008 Tour de France with the injury was physically and mentally very draining. That was the hardest Tour. It was harder to come second than to win in 2011, physically and emotionally."

Photo: Sirotti
25.09.2014 @ 20:29 Posted by Emil Axelgaard, Ponferrada

Today Cadel Evans announced that he will step away from the top level of the sport after the inaugural edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on February 1. At a press conference in Ponferrada, the Australian reflected on a long and successful career, revealing that the standout moments were the ones where he had to overcome adversity more than the wins.


For a long time, it had been rumoured that Cadel Evans would put an end to his long and glorious career in early 2015. Today the Australian confirmed that he will indeed retire after the inaugural edition of his own race, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race which will take place on February 1.


The decision for Evans to put an end to his time as a cyclist has not been an easy one.


“It has been quite a long road to get here,” he said at a press conference in Ponferrada. “I have often thought about stopping racing in years gone by. Since I was very young, I have often been asked ‘What are you going to do after cycling?’ As an ambitious and dedicated athlete, you probably have to put that thought aside for the most part of your career because you really have to concentrate on the here and now and the day-to-day requirements of being an athlete at a high level.


“I have had no intention of racing at a professional level at 40 years of age. I have never looked at age as a limiter but I have always thought that I never wanted to race at a high level at 40 years of age. Inevitably, the stop is going to come. I have come to that period in my life.”


A combination of things has led Evans to the difficult decision. Private matters have played a role but after having lost his role as team leader at the Tour de France, the sporting aspect has had an important say too.


“Of course I have my family,” he said. “They are sad to see me go away to the airport, today being another case of that. I have other things in my life. This year the team taking another direction and then there are my performances in the Giro d’Italia for example where we did a fantastic preparation, a really good build-up without any troubles. We had a very good team there. I had a fantastic team to support me but I was not close enough to the level that I wanted to be at and probably to the level the team had hoped I would be at.


“That also shows that the chance of winning another grand tour is probably past me. These things are not easy to accept but you have to. These factors in the races, in the team and in my own life as well have led me to think that now maybe is a good time to say thank you and watch from the sidelines.”


The lasting memories

With the decision, Evans puts an end to a career whose highlights were the wins in the 2011 Tour de France and the 2009 World Championships. In addition to the standout wins, he has taken overall victories in the Tour de Romandie and Tirreno-Adriatico, won the Fleche Wallonne and finished on the podium in all grand tours.


However, the wins are not necessarily the ones that make him most proud of his career.

“Certainly, the 2009 world championships win and the 2011 Tour de France win are what has really lifted my name and raised my recognition in the sport more than it already was,” he said. “They are what I am known for in cycling.


“On a personal level I look back at my career and am proud of the fact that I was consistent from the start. I am still the youngest rider ever to win a mountain bike World Cup back in 1997. I am the oldest post-war Tour de France winner. That says a lot about the longevity. It is something I look back at and am proud of.


“I am proud of the fact that I could perform consistently over the years and that I was there from the beginning to the end of the year. Taken away a few periods of injury and illness, I was always there. There were other riders that want a lot more than I did and that performed impressively on important race days but I am proud of the fact that I go away from the sport performing consistently and over a long period of time.


“When I started the sport at a young age, I wanted to step out without any regrets. Initially, it was not easy to accept but when I accepted for myself that I was going to stop racing at a high level, one of the reasons was that I am actually not going to have any regrets.


“I worked very hard. I have had a fantastic opportunity to be a professional rider and I have worked with some fantastic people in the sport. I have made the most of the opportunities I had. I have had a lot of second places, a lot of fourth places over the years and I made some small errors tactically and in my training and preparation but overall I think I can go away from the sport on February 2 satisfied, knowing that I gave my sport everything and myself every opportunity to get the most out of myself and do the maximum I could with my capacities. This year I have been a full-time cyclist for 20 years so I have had a good go at it.”


“The moments of my career that stand out in my mind and the best performances weren’t necessarily the winning ones or the ones that everyone regards as the best,” he added. “The climb to Galibier was maybe the best day of my life on a bike or the win in Mendrisio was maybe one of the best days in my life but I go to other circumstances to find the best ones.


“Comings second in the 2008 Tour de France with the injury was physically and mentally very draining. That was the hardest Tour. It was harder to come second than to win in 2011, physically and emotionally.


“Then there was my fifth place in the Giro with a fever. I woke up with 39 degrees of fever one morning. I was wearing the rainbow jersey, it was the first grand tour with the team and I didn’t want to stop. Coming back from the bad circumstances is probably what stands out the most.”


A better future for the sport

Evans has been a part of cycling in the dark era of doping and seen a new generation with a different outlook come through. He is adamant that he leaves the sport in a better state than he entered it.


“Absolutely,” he said when asked whether the sport has improved. “Cycling has done a fantastic job in the fight against drug use in sport and performance-enhancing substances in sport. They will continue to do that. They are the world leaders in this regard. Maybe it’s for the other sports to look at what cycling has done.”


Competitive until the end

The end may be near but Evans is not done racing yet.


“Certainly we still have a Tour of Lombardy this year which is a race that I have already wanted to do well at but usually I have lacked a bit of energy at the end of the year,” he said. “First we will get a real idea this Sunday about how things really are going after the Vuelta but I certainly want to be at my best for the Australian team on Sunday here in Ponferrada and for my trade team at the Tour of Lombardy. I will be there, probably with Philippe Gilbert, to try to do what we can in Lombardy.


“I start up again for the next season. I expect to do the races in Australia, probably again the National Championships leading to the Tour Down Under and of course my own race.”


True to his competitive spirit, Evans won’t just be pack fill in his final races.


“I was second this year at the Tour Down Under by 2 seconds,” he said. “That’s the narrowest second place I have ever had in a stage race during my career. I think I will go into the last races in Australia like they are my last race. I will race them with everything I have left. Now I will prepare as best I can to be as competitive as possible.”


The future

On February 2 2015, Evans will step into his new role as a brand ambassador for BMC Switzerland.


“I suppose this global ambassador role probably started before I came to the team,” he said. “It was part of the reason coming to the BMC Racing team some years ago when some people saw it as a backwards step going from a WorldTour team to a pro continenteal team. The team had a need and I had a need and these needs came together.


“An interesting aspect was also that I live in Switzerland and BMC is in Switzerland. Knowing already back in 2009 that I wasn’t going to race at the highest level forever, I do have some experience in the world of cycling and hopefully this will be very useful for a company, particularly BMC. That’s something we can utilize beyond my time racing at the highest level.


“The more I think about it and learn about it, the more I look forward to it. It comes back to what cycling means to me and [BMC owner] Andy Rihs’ philosophy of promoting cycling. This is what has driven me for years and this is what has driven me in my approach to the journalists: that I want to promote the sport to the public. I want to give something back to the sport that has given me so much. I want to stay in the sport but not just as a professional athlete.”



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