Cadel's first break
By Gerard Knapp
By Gerard Knapp
A short lapse in concentration has given Cadel Evans his first unwanted break in professional cycling: a fractured left clavicle. It is perhaps surprising that the Volvo-Cannondale mountain biker, who is the reigning World Cup champion and Saeco Cannondale road racer, has finally splintered a bone, given the number of races and achievements for this rider who will be finally out of the under-23 category this year.
During the final stage of the Tour Down Under on January 23, on a street circuit in Adelaide, Evans clipped a pedal through a turn and highsided, bringing down a couple of other riders, for which he was quite apologetic, and landing heavily on his collarbone. The result was a hairline fracture, and not a separated break, which can take much longer to heal and usually in a fairly crooked fashion.
Apart from a concussion from a previous fall, the TDU crash was the most serious fall yet for the talented rider who's been competing at an elite level since a teenager. With his ability to cross from MTB to the road, Evans has seen many courses and competitors and had managed to avoid serious injury.
Indeed, his most serious injury prior to the TDU fall was when a truck turned in front of him during a training ride in Switzerland late last year. "I'd only just finished my last physio session from that about a week before the tour Down Under started," he said.
Evans' ability to effortlessly hop back into the fray of a major road race and not only survive but prosper is a skill that his contemporaries in the MTB ranks could well follow. Evans can't really understand why more don't follow, but for the time being he's happy that most don't.
"You have to do the miles and there's a good training benefit," he said of the road races he regularly enters for Saeco Cannondale in Australia, the US and Europe. "It's a bit better than just training on the road ... it's certainly not detrimental (to his MTB racing)."
The endurance benefit from the long road races helps his strength for the MTB events, which require "a lot more focus (than the road races). You're always having to concentrate on your bike handling and the course, otherwise you'll ride off the track. It's more tactical on the road, but I've been doing both for a while now and it's not such a big change".
Evans was talking with cyclingnews as he sat on the verandah of his mother's house at on the outskirts of Melbourne, "watching the rabbits in the back paddock" and already bored with using the stationary trainer. "I can't drive because it's my left side, and I can't even walk anywhere because we're kind of in the country," he said. He expects to be back on the road "hopefully within 10-14 days" and this interruption will mean he starts the 2000 world MTB Cup "not as fit as I'd like".
But with his overall aim for this year being the Olympic Games in September and the World Championships, the accident "won't make a whole heap of difference" to his preparation. For the next few weeks, Evans will recuperate in Victoria before he heads off the to the US - firstly for some road racing at Redlands and the Sea Otter Classic (maybe), prior to commencing his defence of the World MTB Cup champion's jersey with the first two rounds of the World Cup to be held state-side.
Then it's back to Switzerland for the remainder of the MTB season before heading home for the all-important Olympic Games. Evans said the Fairfield course in Sydney is "reasonably OK" for him, and pointed to his second place in the round of the World Cup held there early last year. Evans was quite happy with his performance, as he was in the lead group of seven which included five French riders.
Australia will be able to enter three riders in the men's race, with Evans already officially selected and the other two spots still open. For such a young rider, Evans has seen the high and lows of the sport, with a puncture and then a fall costing him certain gold medals in two world MTB championships. But there is no trace of bitterness for these cruel twists of fate, just quiet determination. He would not make any comments about the Italian rider Marco Bui, who brushed shoulders with Evans in the final kilometres of last world's. Although Evans crashed immediately after, he would only "I guess there's two ways you can get around someone in front of you", but was unwilling to elaborate.
"I always try to be diplomatic," he added.