Cadel Evans – Expectations from the season…
Midway through the 2012 Tour Down Under, the BMC team announced a press conference with the defending champion of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans. A few weeks before his 35th birthday, he was at a training camp in Spain while his Swiss team-mate, Martin Kohler, was leading the general classification of the Australian race. The conference took place with media assembled in a room on the second floor of the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide, while Evans was in Denia, Spain. The questions would be heard by the rider via Skype but he couldn’t see who was in the room, although the media could see Evans on a large screen.
When he did appear in front of his computer, he looked relaxed and happy. As he sat down the first statement he made was, “Oh, uh… please, no questions about my family.”
Earlier that month it had been announced, erratically, in the social media that he and his wife Chiara Passerini had adopted a 12-month-old Ethiopian boy. Eventually this was confirmed in more formal posts on Passerini’s blog. Nonetheless, the media conference related to cycling and that’s what Evans was happy to talk about… not – as he made clear from the start – his life outside the sport.
And so the question and answer session began. Here is a transcription of that press conference.
Amanda Lulham (Daily Telegraph): Are you comfortable with where things are already for the Tour de France defence?
“Um yeah, yeah. Certainly. It is still early in the year. I had a couple of little health issues in the last few weeks but nothing serious – not anything, as far as I’m concerned. Of course, like you say, the Tour is the Tour de France. It’s July. We’ve still got six months. I’ve still got six months of work ahead of me before I get… it’s um. Yeah. We’re on track and we’re at a similar level to last year. So far, it’s going well.”
Amanda Lulham: Are there any races in particular that you’ll target pre the Tour de France?
“Last year Tirreno-Adriatico went well for me so of course it’s a race I really like and I’d like to do well. I go into it motivated but not with any really big objectives. Of course I’m motivated whether it’s to get a result – whether I get a result or someone else in the team gets a result. I’m certainly keen for us to get results there.
“Then, of course, the Tour of Romandie and Dauphiné leading in to the Tour… it’s always something that’s ah – they’re races I like to perform at.”
Justin Davis (AFP Newsagency): I’ve got two questions. The first one: is your race program going to be identical to last year’s in the lead-up to the Tour? And: are you going to have the same kind of approach? What I mean is, are you going to try and give yourself confidence by winning something at certain races and stages before the Tour?
“Certainly we’ll follow a similar race program. I hope not to be injured like I was last April, in 2011, so I can be at the Ardennes week. We plan to have a very similar year leading to the Tour de France and see if we can repeat the results from 2011. From March to July I’d say the results were very, very good and if we could repeat that, that would be great. That goes in to your second question… of course, if we can win some races before the Tour it’s always good, I think. If you win some more after the Tour well, that’s even better.”
Roger Vaughan (AAP Newsagency): You’ve now had a few weeks of your pre-season training – getting back in to it. I wonder if you could talk about where you feel you need to improve – areas you feel you need to improve to successfully defend the title.
“I think, for us, it’s important individually I think it’s my 16th year or something as a cyclist. My room for improvement in various areas… well, there’s always room for improvement. They’re not so great at this point in my career. I think the important thing for us to be focussed on – and it’s my first day at the training camp, I got in late last night and I haven’t even said hello to everyone yet – but for us as a team. That’s where I think it’s going to be important: to be functioning well. That’ll start today at the training camp here in January and there’ll be races all the way to the Tour. I think for us it’s going to be important to take on Trek-RadioShack-Nissan and so on – that’s something that I really want to focus on and I want to make sure that we’re all there, firing on all cylinders. I have a great deal of faith in all the guys but we also need time to get to know each other and so on so that we can optimise each others’ strengths to work as a real unit together. That’s what I really want to focus on this year leading in to the Tour.”
Rob Arnold (RIDE Cycling Review): The off-season this year was a little different insofar that you’ve had a lot of engagements and most of them seem to be rather well received – you seem to enjoy yourself. How different is your physical condition after all of that… compared to last year?
“Oh it was a busy off-season. It wasn’t the worst or the most un-productive off-season I’ve had. I trained well. I put a lot into training and everything looked good. I suppose my activities off the bike get publicised; my training rides and so on don’t. As you probably understand, that’s also my little time away from all those other engagements that I have but – at this time of the year – it’s going pretty well.
“I had a few little interactions with a couple of things but – I suppose, on a personal level, I’m ahead of where I was in terms of life in general; but in terms of my progress towards the Tour, it’s pretty close to where I was last year which is already a good level to get the results at the start of the season.”
Rob Arnold: Is the contentment that comes with having achieved the success last July… do you feel more relaxed when you’re training and does it seem easier? I’d like to know if the tension in your mind is different – more ‘free’ this year.
“I think… my things going to the Tour years ago – when I [made my] debut in 2005 – was initially a question to me was: ‘How good a Tour de France rider can you be?’ From there it evolved into a question of, can I win this race? And then it’s stayed at that question for quite a few years. Personally, I was like: ‘Well, I think I can win it but I need things to go right’.
“Everyone around me was like, ‘You can’t win it, you can’t win it…’ that can nag on your mind a little bit but then the result is done and the race has been run and won – that gives you a stamp of approval and, of course, the answer to a question that can be quite nagging in your mind.
“That’s been answered and now I’m asked, ‘Can you win two?’”
Gregor Brown (Cycle Sport): Would you consider Bradley Wiggins the number-one favourite for the Tour parcours this year? And, if not, who are you looking at as the favourites?
“I think he is someone who, on paper, could be amongst the best contenders. I still think Contador is the number-one contender [note: Contador's suspension was announced two weeks after this interview]. Then, beyond that, I think someone like Levi Leipheimer who is able to come into his own in the second half of the Tour if he reaches the level he reached back in 2008, for example [this is what was said, although he may have meant 2007]; he’s been on the podium of the Tour de France [3rd in 2007], he can time trial – he has a very efficient position and he is a very experienced time triallist. The long, flat time trial is going to favour someone like him.
“Then the strength of the Radio-Nissan team – the Trek thing – they might be able to field more than one or two riders into the top of the classification.”
Amanda Lulham: Do you think it’s going to be more difficult to defend the Tour de France title than it was to actually win it the first time?
“Um… ooh, that’s an interesting question. It could be. I don’t know. I’ve never gone there as the defending Tour de France champion so I’m not really sure.
“I think we got there with an even better team, a stronger team and, I’m guessing, the team will go there with more confidence and, in that regard, I think defending the Tour – a large part comes from the team – but I have a great deal of confidence in the team. And that’s going to be the first part of defending the Tour de France.
“I suppose we’ll find out.
“To give a really truthful answer to your question, I’ll probably have to wait and find out for myself.”
Justin Davis: After so many years of trying to win a Tour, obviously last year you finally succeeded. But before then you had a lot of different experiences – a bit of bad luck, we could say… This year, having won the Tour, do you think you’ll be going in with a stronger psychological approach knowing that you can do it and you have been successful?
“Having won it once, it’s like a stamp of approval and I always believed in myself. But now I suppose everyone will believe in me, my competitors included. And, in that regard you go in with a different mindset and also your competitors go against you with a different mindset. But I will go into it with a good team and, like last year, we’ll do what we can and if things go well for us I think we can be successful again. The difference between winning and losing in years gone by is a little bit of luck; it’s not like I was… 23 seconds was the difference between winning and losing the Tour in 2007 and that’s not a big margin in percentage terms of an 85 hour race. I wasn’t that far off winning it in the past.”
Rob Arnold: I’ve heard that you would like to do the time trial at the Olympics. What discussions have you had with the national team and where do you see yourself after the Tour?
“Initially… I’ve only spoken on one occasion, and that was one day after the Tour de France in 2011, about the Olympics and that was directly with Matt White. Of course the roles in the national team are a little bit different now. From what I understand they want to have me in the road race and the time trial is something I really don’t know about. If I’m the best guy for the job – the best for the role – of the Australian time triallists, then I’d certainly love to be there and do what I can and hopefully go for a top result.
“I think the time trial comes at a very good time for the Tour de France riders and then the road race… I think there’s a role where someone like me – someone with my experience at the big races – while it’s not a course for me, I think having me on the team for a guy who the course is more suited for – like Matt Goss, I’m guessing – I think we need people like me and I’m 110 per cent there for the team for the road race.
“For the time trial I’m yet to find out what the selection details are and so on. I need to know what the selectors are thinking but I think I could do a good time trial there, especially considering the timing of the Olympics.”
Rob Arnold: After having won the yellow jersey does an Olympic gold medal hold as much appeal. Can you compare your motivation for the Tour versus Olympics?
“The Tour, I suppose, is kind of like a – well, it’s an annual thing and obviously it’s a big part of our profession. In that regard the Olympics for me is more about national pride but, for me, it’s also something where I’ve been there in the running for medals before. But I’ve been fifth in the time trial in Beijing isn’t a medal and I want to give myself every chance to go for another medal because it’s something I don’t have. I don’t have an Olympic medal and, for me, my motivation is to work towards the Tour from now until the Tour but once that finishes I’ll work 100 per cent for the Olympics.
“In answer to your question, my motivation is there as it would be for the yellow jersey – that’s for sure.”
Rob Arnold: At the start of your time with BMC it’s my understanding that you went to Hobart to meet the Dalai Lama. Can confirm if you did and, if you did, what sort of discussion took place and what did you take from that meeting? I know that he’s very important to you.
“Um yeah. Personally, his holiness the Dalai Lama was, for me, he was an idol, a goal. I think everyone in life has someone whom they… who would you most like to meet in the whole world? For me that was his holiness the Dalai Lama. I had the opportunity to meet with him and speak with him personally one-on-one and, in that regard, it was a dream come true.
“What I came away from the most is, he’s very humble. All Tibetan people are very composed and they have an air of serenity about them and he has that as well. But I came away from it and… I suppose I meet quite a few people who are quite famous and so on but he was certainly the most grounded and most humble person you would ever meet and, coming away from that, you have a certainly predisposed idea in your head – ‘What’s he going to be like?’ I’ve dreamed to meet him all my life and then you meet him and it was like talking to my past grandfather when he was in a great, jovial mood. He was very kind hearted and humble and I came away with that thinking how refreshing is that that someone that is so well known, who is amongst all these sort of issues like the uprising and so on, is so genuine and down to earth.
“It was very refreshing and, oh, I suppose it’s also nice to have a compliment from him and my efforts of what I do and how I go about my profession. When you get compliments from him it’s also something that, um, a compliment from anyone else would – you know – I don’t know… a compliment from him is – how can I compare it to? Oh, very special.”