It was supposed to be a battle in 3 between reigning Tour de France champion Team Sky’s British leader Chris Froome, 2 time winner Saxo-Tinkoff’s Spanish ace Alberto Contador and reigning Giro d’ Italia champion Italian Vincenzo Nibali of Team Astana, but as is so often the case in professional cycling this one didn’t go according to script. By the end of the 10th stage of this years edition of the Tour de France Froome and Contador would both be at home licking their various wounds, the former a couple of broken bones in his wrist and hand and the latter a fractured leg, leaving Astana’s Nibali to dominate the race and win largely unchallenged.
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The first week and a bit of the 2014 Tour de France is done and dusted (or drowned more appropriately), and what a nine days of racing we’ve seen. As we approach the first rest day we figured it was time to take stock.
Cadel Evans failed last week. Failed to win a cycling race he’d spent months dedicating himself to winning, failed to live up to his own expectations as he was left (not too far) behind by men more than 10 years his junior on some of the steeper climbs in world cycling. Those were his own sentiments after 3 weeks of racing in the Giro d’Italia closed with the BMC former Tour de France winner finishing in 8th place, some 11 minutes behind eventual winner Columbian Nairo Quintana. He was quick to praise his team and the work they had done in his service, but lamented that he’d failed to capitalize on it.
But failure is a relative term. Prior to the last 10 years, or more accurately prior to the Cadel Evans era, Australian cycling had only ever had a handful of top 10 finishes in any of the 3 grand tours – the Giro, le Tour or the Vuelta a España – the Tour of Spain – all achieved by the same man, trailblazer Phil Anderson in the mid 80’s.
For an Aussie to finish 8th in one of the most hotly contested Tours of Italy for many years at any other time and by any other rider would have been considered a phenomenal performance and career highlight. For Evans, it was failure. That should tell us plenty about the unassuming former mountain biker from Barwon Heads via the Northern Territory and New South Wales, who these days spends much of his time with his family in Switzerland.