It has been inspiring to see Cadel Evans battling on in the Tour de France, taking on the Schlecks, leading out chases and straining for every last ounce of energy when his team have lost their puff. I would personally love to see Evans win Le Tour this year, because the last time we had these expectations, it was 2008 and I was in a different place, physically and emotionally.
Just before Le Tour had started, I had been evicted from the marital bed, one of the many symbols of a marriage about to end. I was sleeping on an improvised arrangement of two single mattresses on top of each other in the lounge room. Next to the television. And I found it fairly hard to sleep. So, watching Le Tour was my comfort in 2008. I knew next to nothing about it before that event, but by the end, the excellent commentary pairing had educated me completely about pelatons and teamwork.
That is why I was gutted by the Alpe d’Huez Stage in 2008, when Carlos Sastre, helped by his superior CSC Saxobank team – containing both of the Schlecks – swamped Evans during that stage and took off, gaining those minutes that saw him win the race. It felt like Evans was a lone student in school, being ganged up upon and left bleeding on the street. He was in a pathetic team – Silence Lotto – that went silent when anything tough was even hinted at happening. But there was CSC, a powerful external force, overwhelming him, leaving him no chance to attack or fight back. I felt the same in my life at the time – that things were riding in my slipstream, but then ganging up and leaving me in a heap. Though, finishing 2nd in Le Tour de France is a little better a conclusion than sleeping on a lounge room floor.
Thinking back to that race, though, it seemed that Evans was relying more on being somewhere in the pack, being consistent, getting in the slipstream, keeping close, ready for the time trial to help him win. It is a curious approach, which didn’t come off in the end.
This time, I have watched in far different surrounds. There’s a gas heater, large television, beautiful house and fantastic partner all here. I’m happy with how I’m propelling my life – I have got out of the slipstream of others. Cadel, too, seems to have a more positive outlook on his work. I have seen him at the front of packs much more than I did in 2008. At times this tour, he seems to have decided to get out of the slipstream more and lead. That was especially the case with the Alpe d’Huez this time around. He wasn’t going to let Contador and Schleck take it away, in the same way he didn’t the day before, on that amazing stage that finished at Galibier Serre-Chevalier. Interestingly, Evans was critical of the leeching tactics of Thomas Voeckler in that stage, sitting back and waiting for others to do the work. Evans’ attitude has changed in the passing years.
It also seems that Cadel has in BMC a much better team around him this year. The Alpe d’Huez stage showed that in spades, when his bike has problems and his team were there to help him propel back into the fray. That wouldn’t have happened in the Silence Lotto days. Le Tour seems to be as much about having a good team than it is to be a great individual and that could well be the reason that Cadel might well win this thing.
Let’s hope. My 2008 self is certainly cheering him on.