Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi Vey

Evans in Yellow, Stereotypes to Attack in Alps

So, Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) is in the leader’s jersey after Monday’s stage to Hautacam. Given his wildly conservative Tour strategy, I can only guess this turn of events is attributable to technical problems. Either Evans’ brakes, his earpiece, or both must have stopped functioning, because if he’d known Frank Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) was a mere one second away from taking that yellow bullet for him, Evans would have been skidding that Ridley across the finish line hard enough to stack the whole caravan up behind him.

OK, maybe not, but despite tempering his gendarme slapping, journalist snubbing, interloper punching drama queen personality long enough to engage in some light-hearted rest day hijinks with the press, Evans still managed to work in that this was “earlier” than he wanted to take the yellow jersey. As if we needed to be reminded. I’m sure his Silence-Lotto teammates are thinking the same thing – when Evans crossed the line just in time to take the jersey, I swear I heard Dario Cioni’s voice echoing “Oh, crap” from about 8 kilometers back down the climb. Seriously, if Evans is that much of a pain-in-the-ass for the public at large, can you imagine what he’s like with his domestiques? Throw the pressure of a yellow jersey on top of that, and you have a recipe for serious coworker dissatisfaction. No worries though, I’m sure the situation will be rectified on tomorrow’s rolling stage from Lannemazan to Foix, when Schleck will feel the gentle helping hands of Cioni and Yaroslav Popovych on his lower back, urging him towards the line and his date with destiny.

John Wilcockson, godfather of VeloNews wrote this little piece about Evans’ rest day press fete, which isn’t surprising at all. He’s always been a big believer in Evans, writing at least one very flattering article about him each year and speaking well of him, but I’ve never really understood why. Maybe I’ll try to find out where his Evans enthusiasm comes from once this whole thing shakes out, one way or another. John’s been in the business a long time, and he knows his stuff, and a lot of times he sees things the rest of us don’t, but I’d really always thought he was barking up the wrong tree with Evans. His patience may finally be paying off though, if in a less exciting way than I would hope.

Obviously, I respect John and his insight. However, I’m not buying his assertion in this piece that Evans would have ridden more aggressively on Hautacam had he not taken an asphalt sample on Sunday’s stage. The way Cadel Evans rode on Hautacam was the way Cadel Evans always rides in the mountains – marking the other true GC contenders, and mentally calculating how much time he can take out of any other escapees in the time trial before doing anything rash, like going to the front. I’m sure Evans had a number in mind when Schleck went away, and when the Luxembourger's gap approached that figure, Evans finally sniffed some fresh air for a bit. It was all pretty much standard operating procedure, and other than Evans giving us his version of what might have been, there’s no reason to believe he’d have suddenly been some slash-and-burn climber on Monday if only he didn’t have a little road rash.

As I predicted, the comeback angle after the Sunday crash is certainly starting to gain some traction in numerous outlets, so maybe when we read the retrospectives 20 years from now, the “comeback” will seem more exciting than it does now in the moment. Or maybe not. But you know what else was predictable about Evans taking the jersey? That Australian stereotypes would become more invasive than cane toads, and even more toxic. I mean, the “Boxing Kangaroo?” A Men at Work soundtrack for the press conference? Did Paul Hogan crap in here or something? I’m just waiting for Bindi Irwin to hand Evans a yellow jersey and a Fosters on the podium at some point. Come to think of it, there’s another good reason to hand it over to CSC. I just can’t handle that much spunk, mate. The Australians I've had the pleasure of working with are a pretty cosmopolitan bunch, so I'd imagine that this sort of image hits them about the same way the cowboy hat, big foam #1 finger, and Big Mac image of America hits many of us.

That's it for now, but here's a quick list of other things we’d have commented on, but ran out of time:

- Saunier Duval doesn’t seem to get too much respect in the coverage, despite three stage wins between Ricco and Piepoli. It seems like those two are always spoken of as individual standouts, but yesterday’s outrageous 5 hours of coverage really let you see the setup work the team does for its closers.

- 5 hours of coverage? It was almost too intimidating to tackle, but thanks, Versus, for letting us decide when to say when. Unfortunately, our judgement in such matters isn’t always too good.

- It seems the Beltran positive has gone over as smoothly as possible. Namely, the international mainstream press hasn’t used it as a launching pad to play another round of “cycling is the dirty sport.” I think that may be the biggest success yet in the doping battle. They’ve finally realized that people getting caught is a good thing.

- In other rest day news, everyone quit the ProTour. Well, that was anticlimactic. It’ll be interesting, in a boring, bureaucratic way, to see where this reshuffling leads. Is the UCI going to end up as nothing more than a rulebook publishing house? Things likely won’t go that far, but at least their little venture into race organization seems to be at a temporary end. UCI Commandant Pat McQuaid is saber-rattling about suspensions again, and everyone seems to be taking it just as seriously as they did before Paris-Nice or the Tour. No, wait, they're not even taking it that seriously.


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