• Cadel Evans poses for a photo during a Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race promotion in Victoria, Australia. (Con Chronis/Getty Images)Source: Con Chronis/Getty Images
Cadel Evans retired from professional racing in 2015 but his name still commands respect and draws the crowds, his 2011 Tour de France winning legacy lives on, writes Jamie Finch-Penninger.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
9 Nov 2019 - 7:36 AM 

The race on the Great Ocean Road bearing his name is about more than just one man, drawing spectators from all around and some of the best cyclists in the world.

The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race shines a spotlight on Australian cycling in a crowded summer sporting marketplace, converting the popularity and goodwill from Evans’ 2011 Tour de France success into a meaningful form, a legacy from 21 days of competition around France nearly nine years ago.

Evans reflected on how that fame has taken shape into the yearly pilgrimage of cycling fans to the Geelong waterfront.

“I can’t continue at the Tour de France as I don’t race anymore,” said Evans, “but to have a race named after you is a responsibility and I stay involved in cycling.

"My name is still associated with the sport and I’m amazed how many people remember the 2011 Tour de France, it seems like I meet people every day who remember it well.” 

Evans’ story by this stage is well-known and doesn’t need re-telling, but a lot is proven of the enormity of his victory in one of the biggest sporting events in the world by the public’s continued attraction.

“A lot of people followed me before I raced on the road,” said Evans, “or from when I started to ride the Tour, or even just that Tour, but it was a journey we all made together.

"My name is still associated with the sport and I’m amazed how many people remember the 2011 Tour de France, it seems like I meet people every day who remember it well.” 

"When it all came together in 2011 we all experienced it and I felt like I had my country following me from afar along on the journey and that was a very unique experience and a privilege to have my country’s support when going against the world’s best.”

“That feeling of going on that journey together, I feel I still have that rapport with a lot of people.”

Leaving the professional peloton was never going to be a total shift away from cycling, with the Cadel Evans race establishing a path for his continued involvement in the sport in Australia and his employment with BMC opening doors for a career in the industry. When asked the question of how he sees his involvement with professional cycling these days, Evans laughed in his inimitable way.

“It’s been my life since I was 15, so really not being involved with cycling would be more the question,” he said. “I eat, live and breathe the sport still, it’s part of who I am. I watch the sport on a lot of different levels these days.

“That feeling of going on that journey together, I feel I still have that rapport with a lot of people.”

“I watch as an ex-rider, a race organiser, someone involved in the bike industry and I also get to enjoy the race as a spectator. I went to the finish of Milan-San Remo this year with my family, we had lunch and waited for the race to come in. To see the race from that angle was a completely new experience for me.”

With Evans still the only Australian Grand Tour winner in history, the search continues for that next big winner, and the current crop of young climbers emerging onto the World Tour has piqued the interest of the 42-year-old.

“Hopefully,” Evans responded when asked if Australia has a Grand Tour winner in the wings. “There’s been a few changes in the sport in the last few years and it means the pool of talent is coming from other disciplines of cycling, like mountain-biking. We’re having a bit of a shift towards climbers.

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“Jack Haig has been on a great development path. I’m not putting pressure on him but it will be great to see how he develops with the way that he’s been going.”

“Chris Hamilton as well, he’s a rider that’s interesting to watch. I don’t want to put any pressure upon them but to fans of cycling like myself, it’s interesting to watch these guys go through the ranks and follow them along for the journey to see how they go.”

As an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) athlete, a young Cadel Evans owes a lot to the organisation and says he hopes that support would continue for young athletes into the future.

“I took up the sport when I was 14 and was lucky enough to have funding to go to the AIS and to go overseas and race internationally,” he said.

“I’m from a single-parent family and if I didn’t have the opportunity from the government to get into the international competition. The expense at the time was so great that if you didn’t have that support… it’s not impossible but very, very difficult.

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"If we don’t have that support, the chances of developing talent in the future become very slim.”

While we will never see another Cadel Evans, other stars will grow up with him as their hero as the legacy of the 2011 Tour de France champion lives on.