Cadel Evans’ men’s senior world road championship victory isn’t only his most prestigious win, but the greatest by any Australian road cyclist, with our previous best a silver medal to Robbie McEwen in 2002.
Already ranked by the UCI governing body as the world’s third-ranked road nation behind Spain and Italy, Evans’ win and an earlier under-23 world time-trial victory to 20-year-old Adelaide phenomenon Jack Bobridge further consolidates our stature as a global super power on the road.
These two wins — the yin and yang of our elite cycling stocks with quality and depth in our senior ranks and the promise of an even more golden future with a youthful production line to back up Bobridge — who excels on the road and track — means Australian cycling will continue to prosper. Bobridge is already touted as a future Lance Armstrong, and now Evans’ gold medal means when Geelong plays primary host to the 2010 championships, we will have two Aussies defending their rainbow jerseys.
With the event already potentially hosting Lance Armstrong’s last serious road race before retirement, and the Tour Down Under due a repeat Armstrong cameo next January helping continue road cycling’s exponential growth; Victoria’s coup in securing next year’s event (September 29-October 3) could not be better timed and will attract big crowds to the various courses as the Tour de France elite and the world’s best women compete.
The daring manner in which Evans this morning cast aside his conservative race reputation with a daring breakaway within 3.5km of the finish line on the final lap of the 13.8km circuit, can’t be underestimated. Having made the right call to clear out in a three-man lead group, he then made the decisive winning move when he left his two rivals wondering what hit them when he took off at the foot of the final climb. While ordinarily a long way out in the final dash towards victory, Evans’ tactical smash and grab was perfectly executed as shown by his decisive 27-second winning margin, as he beat home Russian Alexandr Kolobnev and Spain’s Joaquím Rodríguez.
Undoubtedly his tactical smarts was hugely helped by the Mendrisio circuit being virtually his European domicile and training base just three kilometres from the course. His other weapon was an Australian team working tirelessly to give him his final shot at glory. After a disastrous Tour de France but then a strong third place finish in the Tour of Spain, the curmudgeonly 32-year-old Evans has now seen out the year with a career-defining win.
Almost low-key in his stroll across the line while acknowledging the crowd, once he stepped on to the podium the tears were flowing in a mixture of pride and relief that he had so conclusively put all the travails of a trouble plagued year well and truly behind him.
As TV commentator Phil Liggett told his live ONE TV audience in Australia, the Aussies worked wonderfully well together to help set up Evans, with Simon Gerrans next best in 10th place. Liggett noted the outstanding turns at the front by Wes Sulzberger playing a vital role in helping bring his team and the peloton back together after an earlier race breakaway.
The fact Ten’s dedicated digital sports channel ONE was showing this year’s titles live where you might have expected SBS to be in the frame, must now send a shudder through the public broadcaster that’s been such a loyal servant of the sport. While SBS is secure with future Tour de France coverage, ONE is clearly stepping up its cycling commitment as it will also be official host broadcaster of the 2010 titles.