Cadel still king of the road
CADEL Evans has those unique “badges of honour” from his exceptional cycling career “pretty much everywhere”.
“I’ve got plenty of scars to remember what I did as a professional on knees, elbows, hips ... pretty much everywhere,” the now 39-year-old told Australian Regional Media.
“Bits and pieces. Typical cyclist injuries.
“Collarbones are the big ones for bike riders. As anyone who’s hit the road would know, the roads are quite hard and the impact is hard to take.
“Staying healthy and injury-free was always a challenge.”
But the man who claimed one of the world’s toughest sporting achievements – many argue his 2011 Tour de France title was Australia’s greatest moment on the international stage – said proving his many doubters wrong was one of the biggest obstacles he overcame.
“I started racing in the 1990s and when I expressed to people I wanted to be a professional cyclist they said ‘that’s impossible, you can’t do that’,” Evans said.
“That was my first challenge. But I always believed in myself, my principles and the people I worked with.
“I was lucky to work with good coaches and had good people around me in my friends and family.
“They helped me deal with the challenges and that culminated in my results in the last few years of my career, including the 2011 Tour de France.”
This is why Evans finds it so important to give back to his sport and to young kids growing up across Australia.
Through his ambassador role with Medibank he encourages and helps teach Aussie kids to ride bikes from an early age.
Some of Evans’ earliest memories are riding his bike around remote Barunga in the Northern Territory in “very dry, very barren” country as a three-year-old before dreaming of becoming a Tour champion.
“Of course I’m biased towards cycling, but the more activity the kids are doing the better it is for their health,” he said.
“Cycling’s great for young people because it teaches them independence and something they can use for transport later on in life.
“This is something we need to work towards improving if we don’t want to have health and car transport problems for the future.”
Evans will be forever grateful for those who supported him on his way towards world domination.
After starting out as a mountain bike rider in 1995, he retired after racing in the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in February 2015.
Cycling still gives him great joy, but he doesn’t miss the pain, sacrifices and early mornings.
“It (winning the Tour de France) was a great experience – a life-changing experience,” Evans said.
“I look back on it now years later with pride and good memories.
“I still ride my bike as much as I can. I’m in a charity ride for cancer in West Virginia (in the US) in August.
“But I don’t hurt myself on the times any more. I’m loving retirement.”
Evans has also enjoyed sitting back and watching his ex-teammate Richie Porte in the current Tour de France.
The Tasmanian is in the top 20 and riding well, but could well have lost his chance to finish on the podium due to a costly tyre puncture.
“He had a bit of bad luck in the first week with an unfortunate puncture,” Evans said.
“But he’s shown on the first two serious mountains on the tour he’s been up there with the best riders.
“That’s really promising. Now he’s just got to bide his time and reverse the one minute 45 second deficit that the puncture cost him.”
While Evans is enjoying retirement and promoting a healthy lifestyle among Aussie kids, there is one thing that can fire him up.
That is the continually talked-about issue of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling.
Unfortunately for someone so passionate about cycling, the spectre of disgraced doper Lance Armstrong and the sport’s fight against cheats still hangs over the sport.
“People love asking about it. What they don’t seem to realise is that in cycling they have more drug testing than any other profession in the world,” Evans said.
“So if anyone is doing anything wrong they’re going to get caught.
“The changes over the past 20 years in the fight against drugs in sport have been phenomenal.
“It’s still a work in progress but cycling’s come along in leaps and bounds.”
It doesn’t take long for Evans’ trademark smile and chuckle to return though, after being reminded of his work in helping young kids become active through his ambassador role.
“It’s been a great pleasure,” he says with pride.
For more on Cadel Evans’ Bike Better initiative, visit www.medibank.com.au/bikebetter.