My wife and I are big fans of the Tour de France. In particular, we’re fans of the great Australian cyclist Cadel Evans. As much as we love the race, this also usually means that for three weeks in July we’re watching out for him on each stage, late into the night, praying for his good fortune. Cadel has had amazing success at the Tour, twice a runner-up in 2007 and 2008, and this was before he had a team that gave him its full support. Riding as the leader of the BMC Racing team we’re seeing an altogether more powerful combination, a winning combination I think.
Cadel was always super strong as an individual cyclist. Now, however, we’re seeing Cadel leading a powerful team, a team that has asserted its place as the leader of the race. We saw the strength of the team as a whole in the team time trial in Stage 2, in which BMC came a very close second place by something like 4 seconds. Cadel always stays at the front of the Peloton to stay out of trouble. In past years though he’s usually been without much support (Chris Horner did provide great support but there is only so much one man can do). But now he’s joined by several other extremely capable teammates, including that other great warrior on two wheels, the American champion George Hincapie who was an instrumental part of the success of 7-time Tour winner, Lance Armstrong. In fact, looking at Cadel and the rest of the BMC outfit now, the way they’re riding reminds me of the way Lance and his teams usually rode – with confidence.
It is clear that Cadel is confident in the support he has from the rest of the team and that the team has confidence in him – they’re prepared to give their all for him, as he is for them. They are there for him, to help keep him safe, to get him into the right position, and to help him preserve as much energy as possible so he can lay it all down when it counts most – in the mountains. We saw evidence of this in Cadel’s beautiful victory in Stage 4, just a few days ago, when he edged out Alberto Contador on the final sprint up to Mur-de-Bretagne. It was fantastic stuff to watch. It was about 2 in the morning here in Australia, but thankfully I was awake. Cadel had great spring in his legs for the final assault, in spite of the fact that he’d had to fall back a couple of times in the last 30ks of the race to change his bike and get his chain oiled. Where these hiccups might derail (!) the team psychologically, as a unit they simply dealt with it and then after dropping Cadel back into the head of the peloton, he and George finished it off. The victory was a testament to the winning combination of individual brilliance, inspiring leadership, and the importance of having the best team possible.
The Tour de France is a long race, 3 weeks of racing, and we’re only one week into it. Tonight is the first real test with the ride into the mountains with the climb to Super Besse. A lot can happen. Even the best team can have a bad day. Champions have accidents. But all the signs appear to be looking better than ever toward Cadel donning the maillot jaune in Paris.
You can leave Cadel a message of support or congratulate him on his website at http://www.cadelevans.com.au/