As an Englishman, I’ve become something of an expert in hope – and no, I’m not talking about cricket.
Every four years the football World Cup rolls around and every four years, once the utter despair and dejection of yet another woeful set of otherwise ‘plucky’ performances fades just ever so slightly, the players, manager and press start to say ridiculous things like:
‘Well obviously it will be hard, but yeah, I think we could win the World Cup next time around…’
There seems to be a collective amnesia, similar to those lapses in memory shown by people who’ve been through a traumatic experience. In this case though, it’s nationwide.
Now, I’m not about to compare Cadel Evans to the national English football team. First of all, Cadel’s a proven winner so on that level he’s far ahead of the English first XI.
Secondly, Cadel seems to understand what he is capable of, to know his limits, and that is not only admirable in a top level sportsman but rather unique.
He’s won at the highest level of his sport, and against men who were later proven to be substantially juiced up. Praised by Anne Gripper, the former head of the UCI anti-doping department, as the rider with the most level set of test results she’d ever come across – indicative of cleaner riding – he seems to have been doing it the right way too.
Alan Peiper, Aussie cycling legend now Performance Director at BMC Racing, might just have a case of ‘Ever So Hopeful’ where Cadel’s concerned.
Witness the interview he gave to CyclingNews just recently, in which he said that Cadel can win the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
He spoke of Cadel having ‘energy in the tank’ and said that “the way he rides a bike race, the way he can prepare and live for it, I think the Giro is definitely an obtainable goal for Cadel Evans in 2014.”
There is a precedent for this hope shown here by Peiper. In April of this year he was saying that Cadel had a chance to win the Tour de France.
However, his unusual race schedule in the build-up to the Tour – most modern riders aiming to win the Tour do not attempt to ride the Giro d’Italia also – saw him going into the third week exhausted.
Had he aimed for the Giro instead, and geared his season towards the Italian tour, might he have won it?
The answer to that is a no, in my opinion. He finished the Giro in third place, 5.52 down on Vincenzo Nibali, which was a great result in itself, but even had he specifically aimed for the race there is no way he’d be 6 minutes up on the Italian after three weeks.
Great as Evans was and indeed still can be on his day, this is a three week tour, not a one day race or a shorter, regional stage race.
If Nibali doesn’t race the Giro, something he still hasn’t definitively decided upon, and if none of the other top hitters attend, can Cadel win then?
His main challengers will most likely come from Sky, with Richie Porte lining up for them, and OPQS, where Uran now punks his crank. Evans finished just over a minute behind Uran this year, but it’s worth remembering that Uran was originally designated to ride for Bradley Wiggins, who eventually dropped out of the race.
Uran will be OPQS’s top GC guy at the race it looks like, and will have a full team supporting him all the way.
Porte is hungry, too. Very much so. Porte has received the nod from Sky for the Giro, and he is raring to go. A full strength Porte, with a powerful Sky team behind him – and the Sky boys, even their second string employees – are still a better and more cohesive unit than BMC’s top team.
“It’s the next step for me,” Porte said last month. “They want to develop me into a grand tour racer and that’s hopefully going to be my first big opportunity to lead a team.”
Then we also have Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp, a rider who really found form early this year with a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Irishman is going for Pink too, and is entering his prime years.
“I’m going to win,” Martin has said. “I know I’m capable of it and that’s why I’m heading to Italy.”
Finally we have Joaqim Rodriguez of Katusha, who was third at this year’s Tour, surprising many who had felt he was more of a pure one day specialist than a three week GC candidate.
Can Cadel beat these guys? I have to say, again, no. He simply hasn’t got that same grinding ability in the mountains that allowed him in years gone by to cling on to the pure climbers.
And if Porte goes like he did at the Tour this year (apart from that very odd stinker of a day he had), and if Martin steps up and Rodriguez brings his Tour form, and, if Uran is going well, I think it’s 5th place at best for the Aussie legend.
*this article originally appeared on http://www.theroar.com.au
DOPED UP LIKE DI LUCA
might well be crankpunk’s first t-shirt. if that appeals let me know…
anyway, i’ve finished my Giro reporting on PEZ, it has been one heck of a ride as well, what a cracking race. hats off to Nibali, and, for that matter, to Uran ‘Wild Boy’ Uran and to Cuddles too.
yup, read all about it my analysis of the quite thrilling TT here…
yes, he really did look like that… read all about it on PEZ
or read the whole thing here…
The big news from Stage 4 of the Giro weren’t the boos that arose in the coffee shop where I watch the race when Danilo DiLuca took off up the road, but the look on Wiggo’s face as he crossed the line in Serra San Bruno, where he did a very good impression of a constipated turtle.
(Also love the image of the Lampre rider behind, he’s probably gasping for air in reality, but it looks for all the world that he’s having a good old laugh at the 2012 Tour de France winner – and while I’m on the subject, I will again nominate that Lampre kit for inclusion in the top ten ‘Worst Kits of All Time’ list…).
Well, the big news wasn’t so much the bunged-up reptile look, remarkable though it was, but the reason for that look: yes, Wiggo is misfiring.
Surely he and his DeathStar team have him honed to perfection, as tight as you like and ready to go off on another British Blitzkrieg once again, no?
Well maybe not, but why not? Isn’t it obvious? He really does have a dark and sinister master plan: namely – Le Tour!
Look out gloomy Froomey, your tilt at the stars is about to be given a very definitive jolt. It’ll be Hinault vs. Lemond all over again, but in that peculiarly English way, all handbags at dawn, grand gestures reduced to the rolling of eyes and heavy tut-tuts, breaks for tea and all the painful stoicism.
But yes, no doubt about it: whereas Nibali, that Ryder fella and even – gasp – the aging, Cadel I-thought-he-was-dead? Evans are all chalking their cues and casting Paul Newman-style glances through the fug of the pool hall, Wiggo’s powder looks to be decidedly damp.
And I do think, seriously, that it’s because he is waiting for July. Maybe even he didn’t know it til yesterday. I think that his body may have become a little ‘locked in’, due to the fact that he’s been preparing for the Tour so hard for the past few years.
Whatever it is, he didn’t lose time just because of the crash, but because he got gapped on a pretty tiny hill.
Of course, he’ll probably smash the TT and get Pink and leave me all red-faced.
Now, is it just me or is anyone else tired of seeing this Old Guard still popping up? Yes, Di Luca served out his ban and yes by the laws in place he is allowed back, but I don’t know, seeing him and, if I’m honest, some of the Garmin-Sharp team rolling back in like nothing ever happened, it all leaves me a little nonplussed.
I’ll probably cop it for saying that, but there it is. Perhaps if the UCI were addressing all that has happened in a responsible and thorough manner, one that let the fans feel ‘Heck, they’re really doing something about it this time,’ it would seem a little less like ‘business as usual.’
As it stands it kind of feels like yesterday’s fish still out on the market stalls.
Onto Cadel! Not literally of course, not sure the old man could take it. Now as a journalist it is my job, as we journos are all sworn to do, to react to everything with a massive knee-jerk and to cut people down just as quickly as we build them up.
So yes, I did write recently elsewhere in the Ethernet that I thought the grizzly wee Aussie was done in. Washed up. Ready for the glue factory.
And then faster than an Aussie can down 24 beers whilst sat astride an emu (the record stands at 3.8 seconds), back up he pops and takes second on stage 3 and takes 6th on stage 4.
Evans should have that great Mark Twain quote stitched into his jersey:
‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’
Suits him perfectly. Never write off a good man. Still a long way to go in the Giro, thankfully, because it’s been very good so far, and the wheels may come off for the former World Champ in those high hills, but it is great to see him doing well.
He may not be the most liked character in the peloton but he is one of the most respected. Would be nice to see him in Pink for a bit.
A final note on Battaglin’s win. Great to see an Italian winning, that should keep the tifosi happy for, ooh, 4 minutes?
Could Nibali keep them quiet for a bit longer and grab the win? It would certainly be something to have another, serious rival to the Sky domination in the mix.
We shall see.
in a nutshell, yes.
clean? what do i look like, a McQuaid?
no not clean, but cleaner.
let’s look at the evidence.
that dude from Blanco wins the Tour Down Under. either he’s doped to his lids and snuck in to win when most of the others are shying away from the juice – as might have happened in the past, there have been some curious flashes in the pan the past couple of years – or (and this is more likely given the current climate – he’s just a very good and naturally talented rider.
what else? Gaudin’s win yesterday in the prologue in Paris-Nice. sure it was short but EPO doesn’t care if a race is 300km or 2.5, it still works. so does the rest of it. perhaps Gaudin, whom most of us wouldn’t know if we passed him in the street, is a very decent short course rider with superb bike handling skills. maybe he got lucky. but thing is, you don’t get lucky over any TT course, not at a race like Paris-Nice. you have to be good enough to win it.
Biel Kadri of Ag2r-La Mondiale (who? exakly! drink yer milk!) won the Roma Maxima on Sunday after a 127km solo effort. a huge miscalculation by the peloton? possibly. a stellar ride by a guy we barely noticed because hey, when riders are cleaner things get weird and don’t follow the traditional scheme of things? also – possibly.
going a bit further back, young riders like Peter Sagan (who may, a decade from now, be competing for a position in the top 5 of all time) have burst forth, and older, boring (or so we thought) riders like Cadel Evans suddenly became interesting and, dare i even whisper it, exciting. he suddenly found World Championships and Classic-winning form? no chance. it is far more likely that he rode clean whilst others juiced, then they had to limit their intake, and his class finally shone.
then you have the past couple of Tours, where guys have been crashing all over the place. why? cos their bikes are crap and they can’t handle them? well they’re not all on Pinarellos! [insert cabaret stand up comedy routine high hat noise here]. or cos the roads are bad? more likely that they can’t abuse the dope as they used to, the speeds have come down as a result and no single or two teams can control the peloton (remember Discovery?), so there’s more bunching, more guys chancing their arm near the front, and thus less space and hey bingo! you got it – more crashes.
i’ve been in love with this sport long enough to know that you’d have to be a fool to think that things have changed on any deep and fundamental level, or that riders are cleaner now because they realise doping is bad, but it does seem on the face of it as though less guys are taking less stuff just because they can’t, and that may be why we are seeing more unpredictable racing and, in turn, results.
i could be very wrong. i hope i’m not.