As an Englishman, I’ve become something of an expert in hope – and no, I’m not talking about cricket.
Every four years the football World Cup rolls around and every four years, once the utter despair and dejection of yet another woeful set of otherwise ‘plucky’ performances fades just ever so slightly, the players, manager and press start to say ridiculous things like:
‘Well obviously it will be hard, but yeah, I think we could win the World Cup next time around…’
There seems to be a collective amnesia, similar to those lapses in memory shown by people who’ve been through a traumatic experience. In this case though, it’s nationwide.
Now, I’m not about to compare Cadel Evans to the national English football team. First of all, Cadel’s a proven winner so on that level he’s far ahead of the English first XI.
Secondly, Cadel seems to understand what he is capable of, to know his limits, and that is not only admirable in a top level sportsman but rather unique.
He’s won at the highest level of his sport, and against men who were later proven to be substantially juiced up. Praised by Anne Gripper, the former head of the UCI anti-doping department, as the rider with the most level set of test results she’d ever come across – indicative of cleaner riding – he seems to have been doing it the right way too.
Alan Peiper, Aussie cycling legend now Performance Director at BMC Racing, might just have a case of ‘Ever So Hopeful’ where Cadel’s concerned.
Witness the interview he gave to CyclingNews just recently, in which he said that Cadel can win the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
He spoke of Cadel having ‘energy in the tank’ and said that “the way he rides a bike race, the way he can prepare and live for it, I think the Giro is definitely an obtainable goal for Cadel Evans in 2014.”
There is a precedent for this hope shown here by Peiper. In April of this year he was saying that Cadel had a chance to win the Tour de France.
However, his unusual race schedule in the build-up to the Tour – most modern riders aiming to win the Tour do not attempt to ride the Giro d’Italia also – saw him going into the third week exhausted.
Had he aimed for the Giro instead, and geared his season towards the Italian tour, might he have won it?
The answer to that is a no, in my opinion. He finished the Giro in third place, 5.52 down on Vincenzo Nibali, which was a great result in itself, but even had he specifically aimed for the race there is no way he’d be 6 minutes up on the Italian after three weeks.
Great as Evans was and indeed still can be on his day, this is a three week tour, not a one day race or a shorter, regional stage race.
If Nibali doesn’t race the Giro, something he still hasn’t definitively decided upon, and if none of the other top hitters attend, can Cadel win then?
His main challengers will most likely come from Sky, with Richie Porte lining up for them, and OPQS, where Uran now punks his crank. Evans finished just over a minute behind Uran this year, but it’s worth remembering that Uran was originally designated to ride for Bradley Wiggins, who eventually dropped out of the race.
Uran will be OPQS’s top GC guy at the race it looks like, and will have a full team supporting him all the way.
Porte is hungry, too. Very much so. Porte has received the nod from Sky for the Giro, and he is raring to go. A full strength Porte, with a powerful Sky team behind him – and the Sky boys, even their second string employees – are still a better and more cohesive unit than BMC’s top team.
“It’s the next step for me,” Porte said last month. “They want to develop me into a grand tour racer and that’s hopefully going to be my first big opportunity to lead a team.”
Then we also have Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp, a rider who really found form early this year with a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Irishman is going for Pink too, and is entering his prime years.
“I’m going to win,” Martin has said. “I know I’m capable of it and that’s why I’m heading to Italy.”
Finally we have Joaqim Rodriguez of Katusha, who was third at this year’s Tour, surprising many who had felt he was more of a pure one day specialist than a three week GC candidate.
Can Cadel beat these guys? I have to say, again, no. He simply hasn’t got that same grinding ability in the mountains that allowed him in years gone by to cling on to the pure climbers.
And if Porte goes like he did at the Tour this year (apart from that very odd stinker of a day he had), and if Martin steps up and Rodriguez brings his Tour form, and, if Uran is going well, I think it’s 5th place at best for the Aussie legend.
*this article originally appeared on http://www.theroar.com.au