Cadel’s greatest opponent on the road to Paris is himself
Australian cyclist Cadel Evans has the yellow jersey smack on his back but the question is: will he crack or will he stay tough to claim this year’s Tour de France?
If he can ride into Paris, retaining the colour he has aspired to wearing most of his life, Evans must overcome his greatest opponent - himself.
After stage eight on Sunday, Evans survived a fall, injuring his shoulder and wrist. And to everyone’s amazement, Evans gritted his teeth through his pain and finished the mountain stage in sixth place and shot to the lead in the overall standings.
During this stage, the Tour’s doyen Lance Armstrong also crashed and his rivals jumped on the chance to trash him, setting an unrelenting place during the 14km ascent to Col de la Ramaz.
Sorry and sore, Armstrong lost 12 minutes to the Tour’s guns and he is out of the race. Armstrong won’t front up to the Tour - as a competitor - ever again. Evans’ strong position on the Tour now has Aussie cycling fans on the edge of their seats.
An elite cyclist needs a lot of luck, skill, experience and a giant heart to win the Tour de France. You need your teammates - the “domestiques” or workers - protecting you in the peloton. And sometimes, morons get in the way of the cyclists, leaving a trail of destruction. Just ask Aussie Robbie McEwen, who flew over his handlebars on Friday after a podium chaperone jumped out in front of him.
McEwen was badly injured and is now way off the pace, with more than 130 riders ahead of him. McEwen’s hopes (and body) are crushed. It could cost him half a million in endorsements. Unfortunately, falls are common on the Tour’s challenging stages.
A nasty fall cost Evans his Tour victory in 2008, when he lost the yellow jersey after failing to recover from his soreness and injuries.
If Evans’s teammates can protect him from more falls in the peloton, he can win the prestigious Tour. There are two big hurdles that Evans must tackle for each stage. Firstly, Evans’s energy must be saved by his teammates and the peloton, as he tries to gain valuable seconds in the race’s challenging stretches. Evans is a good climber - and an excellent time triallist - but he needs to draft off other cyclists to conserve his energy in the hills. Secondly, Evans has to believe he can win the race. He finished second in 2007 and 2008.
Spaniard Alberto Contador, last year’s Tour de France winner, is tipped to beat Evans. Contador has superior physical and mental capacities compared with Evans, who often doubts himself.
Evans is desperate to win the Tour - his long-time dream. Evans is a sensitive type, and often shows his emotions on the podium. And it’s this sensitive side of Evans that has cost him big races before. Where is the mongrel in Evans? Evans often rattles off excuses whenever he loses. Everyone has an excuse. Everyone has a problem. But what Evans must grasp is that he is in control of his destiny, despite the risks in this race. A winner never rattles off excuses.
It’s this level of control that has been shown previously by Armstrong, who won the race a record seven consecutive times. Armstrong was a recovering cancer victim when he first returned to the bike. He never made his cancer ordeal an excuse. Armstrong turned his weakness into his strength - his mortality, his vulnerability made him face his fears, which gave him the drive (and understanding) to win repeatedly. Sometimes you need to go through adversity to learn how to win.
Will Evans’ repeated Tour losses teach him how to win cycling’s most prestigious race? Only Evans can write the history books, according to his own will.
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