Cadel Evans' decision to hang up his wheels was not as clear cut as one might have imagined, writes Anthony Tan from Willunga Hill, South Australia, following the fifth stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:39 PM

"Most of all, from a young age, when I started riding, I always thought that I want to step out of the sport without any regrets.

"I wouldn't say it (retirement) was initially easy to accept, but when I accepted that I'm going to stop racing at a high level, the reason (I did) was because I'm not going to actually have any regrets."

One would believe that, with everything that's been said since he officially announced his retirement on September 26 last year, including these direct quotes to Adelaide Advertiser journalist Reece Homfray in a story published a fortnight ago, the decision was made entirely out of his own volition.

A week from today, on Sunday February 1, when the eponymous Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race concludes on the Geelong seafront, after 17 years as a professional, he will be a racer no longer.

On September 19, 2014, a week before rumours of retirement became fact, I penned a blog, entitled, 'Should Cadel Stop?'

I felt that, as much as two years ago, his time as a Grand Tour winner was over. "For me the last two Tours and Giri d'Italia he rode told him what he needed to do: forget about riding GC as far as Grand Tours go, and concentrate on week-long races and one-day Classics," I wrote.

"There would have been no shame in that. Far less than bashing your head against a brick wall, in a vain effort to eek something out of your system that can no longer give the way you want it to.

"Because at 37, he can still be one of the world's best riders. He should have accepted the reality two years earlier but if the desire is still there another two, three - even four - years, at the top level, dedicating his all to win races he previously used as prep or did not fit in with his Grand Tour race program is not beyond him."

Turns out, the desire was still there.

Wrote Homfray, in his January 10 story, 'Despite winning the Giro del Trentino, two stages of the Tour of Utah and going top 10 in Strade Bianche, Pais Vasco and the Giro d'Italia in 2014, Evans said there was no real consideration for him continuing racing one-day events like the Ardennes or week-long stage races for BMC.'

"I'd certainly given it some thought but my future lay in the hands of what my team at BMC wanted, and they weren't interested in that," Evans told The Advertiser.

"I think they (BMC management) looked at my Giro result over three weeks and saw that I couldn't perform there, so I could do three weeks or...

"And also on our team we do have riders who can do the one-week stage races; we have a pretty strong (Spring) Classics line-up with (Philippe) Gilbert and (Greg) Van Avermaet, so I guess I wasn't really a consideration for that sort of position."

He wanted to keep going. He didn't want to stop. But, as Evans said himself, "They weren't interested in that".

As his form at this week's Santos Tour Down Under has attested, Evans demonstrated he is still a formidable one-day and week-long stage-race rider.

On his day, any of the hilly Classics, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, California, not to mention the road world championships that he has won once already, are all within his reach.

The stubbornness that won him the Worlds in 2009 and Tour in 2011 meant he didn't accept the decision to eschew the thought of being a Grand Tour contender as early as he should. He can be forgiven for that. However, after finishing eighth overall at last year's Giro d'Italia - nearly 12 minutes down on race winner Nairo Quintana, 13 years his junior - he was prepared to trade in his Grand Tour gloves for a pair cut for the Classics and races like it.

He just needed a lifeline.

"I wasn't really a consideration for that sort of position."

What a pity, BMC... I wonder if they'll live to regret it.