Cadel Evans has announced he is to make a bid for glory at next year’s Giro d’Italia in May 2014. You’ve got to admire the man.
He seems to be saying his Tour de France days are done and anyone who saw Evans flounder somewhat at the Tour de France 2013 might have come to that conclusion already; he started that race solidly but as the days and week’s passed he soon became a pale shadow of the man who won yellow in 2011.
The low point of that race for Evans came when he lost 8 minutes on the hilly time trial of stage 17. It has been plausibly suggested that he lost that time tactically in order to remove himself completely from GC contention, and so free himself up to attack stages without being a marked man. Either way, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Robbie McEwan, Australia’s most prolific Tour de France stage winner, agrees that Evans’ days of Tour de France contention are over, saying:
“Honestly, I don’t think (he can win a second Tour de France). That’s not being nasty or harsh, but that’s the reality every athlete faces at some stage in their career”
The performance of Tejay van Garderen in the last two Tour de France in comparison to Evans is a further spanner in the works; BMC will surely install the American as team leader for the 2014 edition leaving Evans with little choice but to look elsewhere for his tilt at a second career Grand Tour.
But despite evidence of possible decline, any seasoned Cadel watcher would advise against writing off the grizzled Aussie great just yet. His poor showing at the tour can be partly explained by the fact that he rode the 2013 Giro seemingly on a whim, and with little concerted preparation, and finished 3rd overall behind Nibali and Uran, in what was a typically tough race in horrible weather conditions; a decent achievement which would have certainly dented his strength and endurance going into the Tour.
Evans, to his great credit, has seen no reason to peddle this as an excuse and has taken his Tour experience squarely on the chin – classy guy. For much of the Giro he rode strongly at the front of the race, contesting stage wins and staying out of trouble, and gave little indication of a man on the wane – It was only Vincenzo Nibali who was on a different level. How would Cadel have fared at the Tour if he had given the Giro a miss and trained for the big one in July? We will never know but my guess is that he would have been solid top five at least.
Of course he is not in the first flush of youth – he will be 37 come next years Giro – but he is no fool. You would imagine he might pick and choose his races carefully from this point on but he clearly believes that the reserves of endurance and stamina built up over the years give him a chance to challenge at the Giro. Add to this a winter-spring training program with the Giro in 2014 as it’s goal – and probably a Nibali free Giro at that – and it could turn out to be one last hurrah for the BMC man.
Alternatively he might crash and burn at the Giro and discover that his struggles at the Tour were the beginning of the end, and that his legs have officially gone. If that were the case it would be painful to watch – Evans would no doubt battle on in that familiar (if not pretty) hunched style – and only a masochist would enjoy watching that. But you can’t begrudge the man giving it another go.
Can he win the Giro in 2014? I just can’t bring myself to say that he can’t. At this stage – preposterously early to be making predictions – my money is on Chris Froome’s wing-man Richie Porte for the Giro, spearheading a Team Sky tilt at all three Grand Tours next year. But I suspect Evans will get himself in great shape and come out fighting – wounded pride will see to that. Cadel Evans might just have one big effort left in him yet.