Something happened to Cadel Evans on the road to Mendrisio.
Attacking on the climb up Novazzano, Evans shook all challengers off his wheel. Perhaps the most symbolic rider he left behind was the old Cadel Evans.
Since becoming World Champion, Evans has ridden each race with a new-found confidence and aggression. Even more important, the man has begun thinking like a winner. Having exorcized his second place demons, he talks like a rider intent on first place only. “I am tired of being known as the bloke who finishes second in the Tour de France,” he said.
In the past, critics accused Evans of riding conservatively, calculating odds instead of stamping his authority on a race. Hunched over his bike, Evan’s facial expression is always one of annoyance and frustration, like a man burdened by his own bad luck and forced to carry his weak teammates up the mountain. Evans looks like he rides for Team Sisyphus.
Although Evans stepped onto the Tour de France podium twice, he’s had trouble shaking the perception that he’s not a strong team leader. The role seemed to pain him; he was never a take charge guy or a demanding taskmaster like Armstrong.
He never insisted Silence-Lotto build a strong team around him. Although he had the service of quality riders like Chris Horner and Yaroslav Popovych, he didn’t pushed them to perform like they did for the Texan. His voice was too high pitched, he had a fuzzy little dog, he listened to classical music. He seemed to lack that final chunk of willful, violent ego necessary for the kill.
But all that was before the Rainbow. That was the old Evans, this is the man from Mendrisio. For good or ill, he’s now taking full command of his own destiny. Is BMC the right team to win the Tour de France? We’re still in the jury selection stage. But attitude and confidence go a long way.
Evans wasted little time making up his mind and selecting a team. Manager John Lelangue brings tremendous experience and riders like Ballan, Hincapie, Karsten Kroon and Marcus Burghardt form a strong nucleus. (There’s now a mad BMC search for two skinny climbers who love the Alps and Pyrenees.)
“I look forward to working with a new team, in a new environment, towards my same goals; honoring the rainbow jersey at the highest level of the sport, and ultimately at the highest step of the Tour de France podium,” said Evans.
On the climb of the Novazzano, Cadel Evans made a vow to himself. I’m doing things my way now. The old Cadel is dead and gone.