While in part a reference to some other sporting event I couldn't possibly understand (soccer? Aussie Rules FB?) this quote, to me, is a nice little snapshot of Cadel Evans: proud of his accomplishments, very closely tied to Australia, and kind of dorky. I'm sure he said other profound things, but in any event, it seemed like a nice way to kick off a "final thoughts" column. As to those final thoughts...
It's not easy being Cadel
We wags may talk about how "he never wins" or something along those lines, but this hasn't translated into lack of respect in the peloton. On the contrary, Cuddles has been the primary focus of the top rival contenders in both Tours and Vueltas of recent years. Disco and Saxo spent July '07 and '08 working him over mercilessly (less so this year, only because he fell ill). Valverde was nailed to his wheel for most of the Vuelta, while indifferently allowing Cunego to steal away for the odd stage win. Translation: most of his grand tour rivals of the past few years have seen him as the primary threat, and this immense respect for his abilities has seriously hurt Evans' ability to move around. This time, though, Valverde was nailed to Cunego's wheel instead, and while Evans wasn't overlooked by any means, he was at most the third priority, after the Kid and Tony Spartacus. Valv and co. ever so briefly diverted their gaze from the Aussie, and he stole off up the road, never to be seen again.
Right Man, Right Course
Cuddles' strengths consist of his ability to climb up to a certain point (and his willingness to drive himself to the absolute limit in the process); his time trialing ability (see previous parenthetical); and his general consistency from week to week. His weaknesses consist of climbing past a certain point, and sprinting. For once, the finale of a race played out in a way that had everything to do with the former set and not the latter. The climbs were hard but well within his range, while the conclusion of the race was basically a time trial. The alternative scenario was a sprint, but Cuddles got on his horse and snuffed that one out. Perfect tactics.
The Other Guys
My repetitive point about guys looking at each other, versus being gassed. I haven't read all the post-mortems, but let's face it, comments from cyclists after a race are only marginally more useful than the pre-race ones. The standard response of the chasers is something along the lines of "I gave it all I had, and couldn't respond further." What you rarely ever read is "well, I could have won, but I pissed it away on purpose because I didn't want to drag that jerk __ to the line." Sponsors respond more positively to the former than the latter. But the former strikes me as true most of the time regardless, and yesterday was no exception. Cunego did attack in response... and blew himself up in under a minute. Valverde did very little to counter, possibly because Rodriguez was up the road, but my own belief is that he didn't have it. How does he not jump on Cunego's wheel otherwise? There was the look of some serious nonsense going on behind Evans, but after about a minute even a concerted effort would have likely failed to bring back the World Champion.
If you've read otherwise elsewhere, please feel free to correct me.
It's no secret that a lot of aspiring Arc-en Ciels go to the Vuelta a Espana to hone their form for a week or two, then ditch. Evans is a rare exception of a guy who not only finished the Vuelta, but made the podium, then turned around and won the Rainbow Jersey. The last time a rider made the podium of the Vuelta and the Worlds was Alejandro Valverde in 2006 (second in Spain, third in Salzburg). Valverde was also third in the 2003 Vuelta and second in the Hamilton Worlds. To find a World Champion coming off a Vuelta podium, you have to go all the way back to Abraham Olano, 1995 (second in the Vuelta). And even these results come with their share of arched eyebrows, given the era in question -- though to be clear, I have no specific concerns about Abraham Olano, only the era in which he raced. Anyway, it's very very hard to perform well in the Vuelta and still have the juice to win a really long, hard road race. Cadel's consistency is vastly underrated.
It helps to know the roads. From the available evidence I am guessing Cadel's Swiss home is in Riva San Vitale, the closest lake-side area to Mendrisio. [I would not want to know where his house actually is.] Here are the mapquest directions from the main Piazza to the start in Mendrisio:
A: Riva San Vitale, Ticino, Switzerland SOUTH on PIAZZA GRANDE toward VIA ABATE VASSALLI.
Turn LEFT onto VIA DELL'INDIPENDENZA/STRADA NUOVA. Continue to follow STRADA NUOVA.
Turn RIGHT onto PRATI DI CAPOLAGO/STRADA NUOVA. Continue to follow STRADA NUOVA.
Enter next roundabout and take 1st exit onto VIA CARLO MADERNO/2. Pass through 1 roundabout.
Stay STRAIGHT to go onto VIA VIGNALUNGA.
Enter next roundabout and take 1st exit onto VIA FRANCO ZORZI.
Enter next roundabout and take 2nd exit onto VIA LUIGI LAVIZZARI.
Welcome to MENDRISIO, TICINO.
Total Travel Estimates: 7 minutes / 3.26 miles
Liggett's call, along with that Aussie dude who does some UniversalSports work:
2009 Mens World Road Cycling Championship in Mendrisio - English (1 of 2) (via dgh853)Part 2:
2009 Mens World Road Cycling Championship in Mendrisio - English (2 of 2) (via dgh853)