For Cadel Evans, accepting his pursuit of a top overall place in the 100th Tour de France was over was hard – no matter how obvious it might have looked to others.
On Wednesday, Evans (BMC), the first Australian to win the Tour, revealed that ”in the last 24 hours” his purpose for this year’s Tour had changed from being a rider racing for general classification. At the time, he was placed 17th overall 16 minutes, 40 seconds behind Tour leader Chris Froome (Sky).
Even then, Evans, 36, said while warming down after his ride in the 32 kilometre stage 17 mountain time trial from Embrun to Chorges, it was a team decision.
Asked when his target switched from a high overall placing to a stage win before the Tour’s finish on Sunday, Evans said: ”The team decided, and … ‘OK, I am here to do my job. I tried in one aspect [for] the GC, and couldn’t deliver for whatever reasons, and that has only come in the last 24 hours.”
Evans later finished 167th in the time trial from 177 finishers at 8.04 to Froome. The Australian dropped further on the overall standings to 18th, 24.44 behind Froome, who won the stage by 9s over Spaniard Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).
The stage place didn’t matter to Evans. He had deliberately held himself back to save energy should the opportunity to win a stage in the Alps beckon.
”If I am going to have chance of doing anything in the stages to come, I am going to have to be recovered and to back off today,” Evans said.
”I will see if there is an opportunity [in stage 18]; if not, take it easy again in the hope of coming around for one of the [last] stages.”
To his fans watching – many of them Australian – his stage result mattered little either. They were just happy to catch a glimpse of the rider who captured their hearts two years ago with his Tour win. They offered words of encouragement as he spun the lactate out of his legs. Evans replied with a smile and a wave.
Calmly, Evans explained the difficulty in shifting his focus from the general classification to a stage win. For many, it was an obvious call to make when he lost a chunk of time on stage eight to Ax 3 Domaines in the Pyrenees, again in the stage 11 time trial at Mont Saint-Michel and then after stage 15 to Mont Ventoux.
But Evans’ ambition, as with pride, runs deep. Until stage 14, he was still being spoken of by his team as a top 10 overall chance.
”You go in with big ambitions. It’s not that you can get anywhere without ambitions. They are a pretty strong driving force for getting anywhere,” Evans said.
”Not living up to those – or not delivering – is always disappointing and something to deal with, something that inevitably is going to happen every now and then in sport – certainly at a high level at least.
”Being here is always helping me for the end of the season, or next year. I have to accept that I can’t go back and correct my time losses from Ax 3 Domaines or at Ventoux. That’s the way it is. I have put that behind me and get on with it.”
Evans said it was too early to say what went wrong in his ninth Tour. He suspects racing the three-week Giro d’Italia to third place off a short six-week preparation might have been too much for him.
”It would seem that the Giro took a lot more out of me than I first thought, than we first thought and understood,” Evans said.
”It’s really at that top end that I am lacking it … When the real selection is being made on an uphill finale or finish is where I am finding myself legless. It is something we have to look at – take a bit of time to analyse. I want to be back at a good level, of course. But it’s first important to understand that.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.