Bucking the modern-day, Armstrong-led trend of targeting just one or two races a year, Cadel Evans’ performance last Sunday reminded Anthony Tan of another superstar who has a voracious appetite for glory.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

"I do like this about Cadel Evans," enthused Eurosport
commentator David Harmon in the closing kilometres of Sunday's Amstel
Gold Race.

There was 25 kilometres to go in the 257.3km race.
With a still 100-strong peloton dashing through the characteristically
vertiginous, winding and narrow (read: perilously sketchy) roads of
Holland's South Limburg region, one could almost sense a crash was
imminent.

Twenty-six climbs down, and approaching the
fifth-to-last climb of the Kruisberg, the rainbow-striped Evans was
leading the swishing serpentine trail that would culminate in the final
ascent of the Cauberg, where it would be every man for himself.

BMC
team-mate Karsten Kroon, second last year to Russian Serguei Ivanov,
was glued to his wheel.

Less than 500 metres after Evans took
control and the very first corner after he did so, there was a crash
that took out AG2R's René Mandri. He wasn't getting up in a hurry…

Harmon:
"Cadel Evans, absolutely stringing them out… He doesn't shirk the work,
does he, even though he's world champion?"

Replied his
co-commentator Graham Jones, one of the 'foreign legion' of Anglophones
that infiltrated Europe in the early-to-mid-1980s along with our own
Phil Anderson, both honours graduates of the famous ACBB (Athletic Club
de Boulogne Billancourt): "No – and you know if Cadel Evans is on the
front and he's put his head down, this is going to string them out
before the climb, and you would expect to see some sort of selection
over the climb, you would think."

On the Kruisberg, Marco Marcato
(Vancansoleil) did attack near its crest and forged a handy gap, but
there wasn't the selection Jones was expecting.

That happened on
the following climb of the Eyserbosweg, which eventually created a very
dangerous five-man move and neither Kroon nor Evans was there.

Harmon:
"And the chase-down work done by…"

Jones: "Cadel Evans! He's
still there, after doing a lot of work on that other climb [of the
Kruisberg], doing a lot of work to close this down."

So far
unable to respond to any of the moves in the closing 10 kilometres,
quite clearly, Kroon wasn't having his best day. But Evans instilled
hope in his Dutch team-mate, and should it come down to a sprint of
sorts on the 12 percent, 1,450 metre ascent of the Cauberg, maybe Kroon
could find something extra.

Evans did so much work to bring Kroon
back, he was dropped from the chase group that only moments before he
was leading. "Looks like the day is run for him," said Harmon.

Jones:
"I don't think he's in the same condition [as he was in September 2009]
at this time of year. I think Cadel Evans will be looking at the Tour
de France; I think he really wants to make amends for the Tour de France
of last year, so I don't think he's anywhere near tip-top condition."

Harmon
was wrong. And given Cadel specifically told me at the start of the
year he won't leave anything behind at May's upcoming Giro d'Italia
before he tackles France's Big Loop, Jones was also incorrect.

Evans
found a second wind, and found himself back onto the chase group that
caught the last of the escapees in the township of Valkenberg, right at
the bottom of the Cauberg.

Gilbert, as we now know, was
untouchable; Kroon didn't have anything left, finishing ninth, 11
seconds behind. And quite incredibly, Evans was just two places behind
him.

That Cadel rides prestigious events such as these – races he
could win himself, if he chose to – so unselfishly is testament to his
character. "Cadel closed some gaps and was really strong," said Kroon
post-race. "Obviously it was a big honour to have him there to help me."

I
also agree, to an extent, with Jones' comments, saying he doesn't think
Evans is in the same condition as he was when he won the world's in
Mendrisio. That's obvious.

He's probably at about 80-85 percent,
and after Wednesday's La Flèche Wallonne and Sunday's
Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he'll most likely be at 85-90 percent.

If
he choses to, he could stand on the podium in either of those. Evans' 90
percent is a 'no-chain' day for the majority of his colleagues.

And
unlike many of today's riders, Evans, even if he is targeting the Giro
and Tour this year, doesn't go to other races just to make up the
numbers.

In fact, Cadel's a bit like Alberto Contador – quiet,
unassuming, doesn't talk trash but instead gets on with the job, and
tries to play a part in every race he enters.

Only Contador seems
to win every time he puts on a number.