With the presentation of the next year’s Tour and Giro announced, Anthony Tan’s certain Cadel Evans can win either – or both – if all goes to plan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

"Certainly, I think two or three would be [possible]… Conservatively,
I'd say two."

This was the response from a battered and bruised
Cadel Evans on July 20 this year, the evening following the sixteenth
stage of the 2010 Tour de France. At his team hotel on the outskirts of
Pau, a famous spa town in thrall to the mighty Pyrenean mountains, I
paid him a visit and asked him straight-up: "Realistically, how many
chances do you think you have left to win the Tour de France?"

It
turned out Evans was a little more than bruised. Pummelled might have
been more apt a term.

A week and a half previous, his crash six
kilometres into the eighth stage to Morzine-Avoriaz created a hairline
fracture of his left elbow and although he took the maillot jaune
that day, the incident would precipitate an insidious series of events
over the following 48 hours, causing him to fall out of contention in
the most inhumane way possible.

That for the next fortnight, he
doggedly battled on all the way to Paris was just another defining
moment in the career of perhaps the gutsiest modern day cycling champion
of the 21st century; that he finished an anonymous 26th overall, 50
minutes and 27 seconds behind Alberto Contador, is irrelevant.

So...
with two bona-fide chances left, and possibly three, I guess what all
Australian cycling fans want to know is: Does the parcours of the
2011 Tour lend itself to a rider of Evans' characteristics and
capabilities?

Regardless of the course, I can say Cadel's
characteristics and capabilities lend themselves to Grand Tours,
full-stop. So even before the route of the Tour, and this past weekend,
the Giro d'Italia, was announced, the parcours favours him.

Why?

Well,
as BMC's sports doctor, the renowned Max Testa, told me at this year's
Tour: "I think Cadel is a special combination, somebody definitely very
physiologically gifted and also mentally strong. Cadel is probably the
rider who covers all the possibilities: a good time trialist, and he can
climb with the best climbers."

The four mountain-top finishes
and two hilltop finishes make this 2011 Tour the most climber-friendly
in recent history, and the seven summit finishes at the 2011 Giro do
likewise for that race.

What's more, given the downward trend in
ITTs at the Tour de France since 2006 – 116km, 117km, 82km, 55km, 59km
and now just 41km (excluding team time trials) – organisers ASO clearly
want a pure climber to win next year's edition of La Grande Boucle.

Gifted
against the clock he may be, I don't believe the lack of individual
time trials – 41 and 46.5 kilometres, respectively – will affect Evans'
chances at winning either race, for the reasons Testa's mentioned. His
ability to adapt to the course, rather than bemoan the lack of time
trialing kilometres or steep mountains or whatever, is one of the
Victorian's greatest assets.

From what I saw at both the Giro and
Tour, the greatest area for improvement in terms of enhancing Evans'
chances of winning a Grand Tour before he retires is the strength of his
team. This was particularly evident at this year's Giro, where he found
himself either caught out in a dangerous situation, unsheltered from
the elements, or alone when chasing down a breakaway.

That BMC
Racing's owner and team manager, Andy Rihs and John Lelangue, have
addressed the shortfall by signing eight new recruits so far including
Manuel Quinziato and Ivan Santaromita (from Liquigas-Doimo), Greg Van
Avermaert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and the recently-crowned American U23
World TT champ, Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong), bodes very well
indeed.

And should he decide to ride both the Giro and Tour, BMC's
power upgrade will surely be noticeable when it comes to the team time
trials: 21.5km on Stage 1 (Giro) and 23km on Stage 2 (Tour) – let's not
forget that abysmal performance by Silence-Lotto at the 2009 Tour, where
Evans' team conceded two-and-a-half minutes to Astana over 39km around
Montpellier.

For Evans at least, I somewhat disagree with Team
Sky Sean Yates' assessment that the majority of Tour contenders will
likely skip the Giro because of its difficulty: "I'm not expecting many
of the Tour favourites to be competing because I think it's simply going
to be too hard to do both races in such a short space of time," he said
after the presentation of the 94th edition of 'la Corsa Rosa'
Saturday in Turin, the start town of the 2011 race.

If the past
two years have shown anything, it's that Cadel is capable of riding well
in two Grand Tours per season, and excluding circumstance and bad luck,
he generally goes better in the second. In fact, it was at January's
Tour Down Under where he said to me it was his performance at the 2009
Vuelta a España that convinced him it was so.

"Previously, I had a
bit of preconceived doubt [about riding two Grand Tours in one season),
but last year, I proved to people that matter to me – me and my coach
[Aldo Sassi] – that we could do it. I think I'm one rider who's capable
of doing two good Grand Tours in one year, and 2010's the year to find
out," he said.

We'll never know how Evans would have fared had he
not fractured his arm at the Tour, or how he would have gone had he not
been so alone at the Giro.

But enough ifs and buts. What I know –
and I'm sure Cadel does, too – is that he's still very much in the
running to win either.

Or, should everything go perfectly next
year, possibly both.

In a future blog, I'll discuss what Evans
told me is one of his strengths, which can also be an impediment when it
comes to targeting three-week Tours.