On the Monday before the Tour Down Under a ride was planned. Kate Skinner went along for RIDE. She got to meet a cyclist who is still enjoying his cycling…
– Photos: Veeral Patel
“A new chapter of cycling…”
– By Kate Skinner
It’s not every day you get to cycle with one of the sport’s most celebrated legends and, to be perfectly honest, I was a nervous wreck as I kitted up, hopped upon a borrowed BMC bike and pedalled off to a ‘secret’ meeting spot in Adelaide to meet Cadel Evans for a morning ride.
I suspect I wasn’t the only one. Even for the more seasoned cycling media joining us, meeting Cadel was a pretty big deal.
Everyone had turned up early, and we stood around in quiet anticipation until the man himself casually wheeled up, grinned from ear to ear, and broke the ice by welcoming us all individually as if we were a familiar bunch of mates embarking on their regular weekday loop. The journo next to me admitted that he too was pinching himself as we posed for a quick media photo, clicked in and rode off with Cadel leading the way.
Was this seriously happening?
Thankfully, my nerves eased as we settled into the ride, and conversations struck up in the bunch as we headed south along the flat out of Adelaide.
Soon though, the road narrowed and pointed up, the chatter quietened and we slipped into single file to start climbing. The pace was surprisingly easy and I happily settled into a good rhythm, yet as we neared the summit Cadel turned around and said directly to me, “We’re getting dropped!”
Through all my pre-ride jitters and worrying, I hadn’t in my wildest dreams pictured this scenario. I mean, what’s the protocol when you’re ‘getting dropped’ with a former Tour de France champion? Do you cheekily speed up and pull ahead to rejoin the bunch, or graciously slow down and stay on his wheel?
As it turns out, it was Cadel’s third time on the bike after his pre-Christmas knee surgery, having only just been cleared by the medics to get back in the saddle. So I probably shouldn’t use this experience to brag to my future grandchildren that I once passed Cadel Evans on a climb (I’ll always be cheekier than I am gracious).
The same scenario certainly was not repeated as the road flattened out and turned downward – after overhearing him telling one of the other journos that he now “takes it easy descending”, the rest of us all tucked into our most aero positions, racing each other downhill only for Cadel to charge past from the back of the bunch like an absolute rocket. All of our egos were firmly back in check!
Properly enjoying myself by this point, our group turned from the hills and we wound our way to the coast for the return leg of the ride. Cruising along the flat and taking in the views, Cadel took turns beside each of us to strike up a casual conversation.
For this ex-pro, he told me it was a new chapter of cycling – leading by example, encouraging more people onto bikes, and spreading the simple pleasure of riding.
He described his vision for this year’s Cadel Evans Road Race events, which will expand to include more riders from the general public, more children and teens, and in particular, more female participants.
I was chuffed to hear his enthusiasm for women’s cycling, and we discussed the barriers that women face starting out in a male-dominated sport, even at a social riding level.
Cadel recently bought his mum, Helen, a new bike, so she can get out there and enjoy cycling.
– By Kate Skinner