Reports that Australian team leadership at last year’s Worlds was decided by a show of hands is complete invention and utter lie, writes Anthony Tan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

At the Tour de France this year, and in the past
month or so, I've been asked a number of times about what actually
happened in the Australian team meeting before last year's world
championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

After the race on
September 27, a Belgian newspaper reported that in the pre-race meeting,
a show of hands would determine who would be the outright leader for
Australia, and when the call was made for Cadel Evans, only one hand
went up – which was said to be Cadel's.

"That [story] was
absolute bullshit," Gerrans told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We
were shocked to hear it. It couldn't have been further from the truth.
We sat down, had our team meeting and discussed tactics and who were the
best chances."

I never took much notice of this report - certain
parts of the Belgian media are known for their sensationalism to the
point of complete fabrication – and I simply took it as another example
of an article that had as much veracity as the claim that a bagful of
'frites and mayo' will aid your digestive system. (Although when in
Belgium and Holland, it doesn't stop me from gorging myself on said
food; I know it's bad for me and my intestinal tract.)

The way I
understood it, and the way I've relayed the story to those who've asked,
was that Evans and Gerrans were acknowledged as Australia's top-tier
leaders, and therefore protected riders. And as invariably happens in a
bike race, natural selection would determine who would be the best of
our predetermined select few.

From an Australian team
perspective, that's how I saw last year's Worlds eventuate, and
ultimately won by the strongest of our two leaders; the strongest bar
none.

"While Cadel and I were going for the win," said Gerrans,
"we decided I would be the best [chance] to win but by natural selection
he was good enough. I wasn't. We were equally protected. Cadel had the
legs to finish it off. I didn't."

In the August 24 teleconference
with chief national team selector Shayne Bannan, who was in the team
car with Neil Stephens in Mendrisio and again will be on October 3 this
year, the question was raised again: "Was the only person backing Cadel
Evans, Cadel Evans himself?"

"That wasn't the case. We didn't do a
show of hands," replied Bannan.

"There was a discussion that
took place; people were given various roles. We knew, as we know going
into Geelong this year, that these roles are dynamic, and things will
change [throughout the race]. And we adapt to that."

Evans
himself, who in the space of three months, has gone from saying "it's
not a course for me" to "I think it'd be a mistake not to have me as a
protected rider", accepts that in the times he's ridden for his country
on the road, there has been no evidence of infighting or power
struggles.

"What it comes down to in a race, whether it be Simon
Gerrans or myself, or Allan Davis or Stuart O'Grady, it's up to us as
leaders or co-leaders to say what's in the best interests of the team,
and the team as a unit, what's in the best interest to get a result for
the team and the country.

"In the past, I know with Allan Davis
and Stuart O'Grady, that's never been a problem at other world
championships that I've done with them," said Evans.

On the
subject of controversies and conflicts of interest, does Bannan believe
that Neil Stephen's customary role, as a sport director at Caisse
d'Epargne, will compromise his ability to make the right call, should
both Australian and Spanish rider/s find themselves in the winning move?

"Bottom
line is, Neil is an Australian, he's a passionate Australian, and he
makes decisions in the best interests of the Australians. I have no
concerns about Neil's ability to make the right decisions."

So
there you have it. Straight from the horses' mouths.