Evans paves the way

IT MAY not have been a win, but Cadel Evans’ first race for season 2014 has nonetheless exceeded all expectations.

Yesterday’s second placing to stage race specialist Simon Gerrans in the national elite men’s road race has set the ball rolling for a huge professional season that will see him contest next week’s Tour Down Under before turning his full attention to the Giro d’Italia in May.

Australia’s first and only winner of the Tour de France appeared to struggle at times across Buninyong’s 182-kilometre circuit, but still found himself on the back of Simon Gerrans’ wheel in the last 100 metres and with a genuine chance of claiming a maiden national title.

“To be there with the winner and to have a really good chance for the win was a little bit more than I expected,” Evans said after the race.

“I had the perfect position to come in for the win at the finish, but I was just legless in the final 100 metres.”

Evans was almost dropped from the peloton on the 16th lap as Orica-GreenEDGE stepped up the chase of a 17-strong breakaway, and again on the final lap as Gerrans attempted another clean break, but he held firm and bridged the gap on both counts.

Evans lamented his lack of team support, which was even more evident by the time the leading pack had been whittled down to four riders, two of whom were from Orica-GreenEDGE.

“I’ve always been here on my own – I’ve never had a team mate, so I always feel as though everyone wants to be in a break without me, and in the final just following me,” Evans said.

“My most important thing was to come here and use this race as my stepping stone into the Tour Down Under and the world tour season, so it (the result) bodes well at this point.

“I find, especially in the early part of the season, just having one race like this makes a big difference.”