Cadel Evans' win may be celebrated as a Australian one, but it didn't come without help from another important cycling nation, writes Anthony Tan.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Did all of you read "Erik Zabel's" comments below Monday's lead story on the Cycling Central site, "Evans wins worlds"?

"Zabel" wrote: "Cadel, you are single-mindedly focused, you are a stickler for detail, and you have no absolutely [sic] sense of humor – this is why Germany loves you!"

At the time of writing, nineteen of you agreed with this statement; none disagreed.

I have to say I'm in doubt about "Zabel's" last words, that Germany loves him.

Okay, "Zabel"
was being a little tongue-in-cheek, but those aforementioned qualities
are, generally speaking, representative of Germany and, of course,
Evans himself. That I agree with.

However, if you wind back the clock six years, when in 2002, Mapei
ceased sponsorship of what was for a number of years the world's number
one team, Evans was snapped up by an similarly powerful,
German-registered outfit known as TeamTelekom.

After his precocious ride in the 2002 edition of the Giro d'Italia, where he lost the maglia rosa just two days from the finish in Milan, in no small part due to a corroboree of Italians smelling the blood of the boy from Barwon Heads, it was a destination full of promise.

From the start, it was made clear Evans was not going to be leader Рnot with names that included Jan Ullrich, Andreas Kl̦den and Alexandre Vinokourov. Under the direction of the imperious Walter Godefroot, Cadel
was to be the support rider to these then bigger names, whose careers
in years to come would cast their pernicious shadows over the sport.

In 2003, Evans broke his left collarbone no less than three times. But the following year, three weeks out from the Tour de
France, he confirmed his form was there when he won the week-long Tour
of Austria. Though incredulously – inexplicably – Evans was left off
the nine-man squad, now called T-Mobile.

By then, we were aware Cadel
was a little eccentric, a tad reticent, a touch unorthodox, in his
ways. But to be left off the Tour squad in 2004 for simply being
different, an individual? It was akin to SimonGerrans' omission from the Cervélo TestTeam in this year's Grande Boucle.

No German love there.

Unsurprising, therefore, that he exited stage left to join Davitamon-Lotto
in the 2005 season, and despite three name changes (now Silence-Lotto),
it's a home he has continued to stay at. There's been a few squabbles,
but he's been infinitely happier and by consequence, performed
infinitely better.

In 2005, ex-pro Allan Peiper was a new sport director at Davitamon-Lotto (who is now at Columbia-HTC), and in his autobiography, wrote this about Evans at the time: "Obviously Cadel had brilliant potential, but despite that I hadn't heard one good word about him, not one."

As Peiper would later say, one trait he possesses is championing the underdog, "and as far as I could see, Cadel was definitely the underdog".

"For the team, Cadel is a risk," Peiper evaluated, "a shot in the dark. He has a huge amount of potential, but no guarantees."

But right from the start, team manager Marc Sergeant gave Evans total support, says Peiper, as he personally committed himself the task of "fine tuning this 'rough shod' into a champion".

In three years, Evans and his team rose to the challenge, going from eighth to fifth to second overall at the Tour de France. In 2008, he came second again.

And last Sunday in the Swiss town of Mendrisio? Well, we all know know what happened there.

I thought Jonathan Vaughters'
post-race tweet was spot-on: "He [Evans] was underestimated, which is
exactly what he needed to win. A bit less pressure, and a bit of space."

Sure, it was an Australian team performance at the world championships,
but over the past five years, it's the Belgians who have steered him in
the right direction. For that reason, we shouldn't be so harsh on them
when Evans under-performs.

While I'm unsure as to Germany's feelings towards him, I have no doubt many Belgians love Cadel, and take much pride in his deserved victory last Sunday.