With the dust settling on what has to be the most talked about transfer
of the 2009 season, I've become more at ease with Cadel Evans's
audacious move to Swiss-American outfit BMC.
Rather than speculate on how he'll fare in 2010 Ã¢â¬â it's far too early for that Ã¢â¬â here are my reasons why I think the move is a good one:
* Silence-Lotto (soon to be Omega Pharma-Lotto) was Ã¢â¬â and still is Ã¢â¬â a classics team at heart. That is it's snaggletooth. Remember, the Belgians place races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix on a higher pedestal than the Tour de France Ã¢â¬â unless one of their own is in a position to win (see third point below). Upon hearing the news, these were Evans' former team-mate Philippe Gilbert's words to Belgian TV station, Sporza: "With the departure of Evans, we are more than ever a team for the classics."
* Evans had been with the team five years. For most, that's half a career. Time to move on. Stability leads to complacency.
* It seemed S-L owner Mark Coucke was more interested in grooming Belgian Jurgen Van Den Broeck (who finished 15th at this year's Tour de France) than Evans. If Cadel stayed, it was tacitly implied he would have been a co-leader at the Tour Ã¢â¬â now he'll be the outright leader, provided BMC get a ride in La Grande Boucle.
* BMC has money: virtually their entire budget is funded by Andy Rihs, owner of BMC and Phonak Hearing Systems. The Phonak cycling team spent six years in the top league of pro cycling, from 2002-06. At the time, Rihs left the sport not because he ran out of money; he was simply sick to death of the number of doping positives, the final straw being Floyd Landis' DQ from the '06 TdF.
* On paper, BMC has a stronger team to contest a grand tour than the various incarnations of Lotto ever did. George Hincapie, Steve Morabito and Karsten Kroon will be great domestiques in the mountains; Burghardt, Michael Schar and Hincapie again can handle the flat/rolling terrain.
* Evans lost his best workers in Chris Horner at the end of 2007 (the Belgians wouldn't pay him what he was worth; that was the first time I demurred about the team's ability to back Evans), and this year Thomas Dekker (busted for EPO) and Johan Van Summeren (off to Garmin in 2010). Team manager Marc Sergeant said the team had enlisted Daniel Moreno, 11th and 12th in the last two Vueltas, to help Evans in the mountains next year, along with Matt Lloyd. Up against Contador, Armstrong and Schleck, you need a bit more firepower than that.
Were there better teams he could've picked?
Maybe Ã¢â¬â Sky, CervÃ©lo and Columbia come to mind Ã¢â¬â but going is better than staying. BMC is the tabula rasa choice for Cadel. It was worth buying himself out.
Can a hobby that becomes a job turn back to a hobby?
Last week, I suggested the notion that there's a bunch of pros out there that treat their profession more as "just a job" than a passion, and some even despise what they do.
While I quoted athletes in the midst of their careers, I never discussed those who have hung up their wheels. And perhaps this is the better (or at least, clearer) indicator to my theory, for there are certainly many more retired pros who choose not to ride at all or very irregularly than those who continue to keep their legs spinning.
Some, however, never lose the will to compete, even if they no longer choose to ride.
Eric Heiden, a US Olympic speed skater who won five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Games, followed his career on ice with one on the road, where he raced in the 1986 Tour de France.
"You get addicted to that stuff in your sports, and all of a sudden, you don't get that runner's high anymore," Heiden told the New York Times recently. "When you get out in the real world, you don't get that same immediate response."
After retiring from cycling, Heiden didn't touch his bike for two years. He's now a surgeon in Utah.
Another American, Kristin Armstrong, who after winning the elite women's time trial at the world road championships in Switzerland a little over a month ago, announced it was her last race.
Asked by the same NYT reporter if she would ever entertain the idea of a comeback (perhaps in the vain of her namesake, Lance), Armstrong replied: "Don't even put it in my head. Really. I'm at peace. My expectations would be too high. I'd rather not face that."