SOME athletes have a fascinating story to tell but aren’t natural storytellers. Others can communicate beautifully but don’t necessarily have much out of the ordinary to share.
And then there’s Cadel Evans: son, father, friend, idol and almost certainly Australia’s greatest multi-discipline cyclist.
It seems hardly any time has passed since Evans – one of only two non-Europeans to have legitimately won the Tour de France – completed his final competitive ride: a race bearing his name along the Great Ocean Road. That was exactly two years ago this week.
In his third book, a retrospective of a 20-year professional cycling career, he lays bare his life tale, from receiving a beginner bicycle at the age of four to relaxing into retirement.
This is a genuine autobiography, written by Evans as a means of slowing down and refocusing his life after he stepped away from racing as a 38-year-old.
It records his earliest memories of childhood: moving from a predominantly Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory to rural NSW, then Plenty on the hilly, forested fringe of Melbourne. It was there that Evans, aged 14, became his own first coach, devising a rigid training regime, honing his diet and critiquing his performances day by day.
Evans reflects on twice winning the mountain bike world championship, contesting the most prestigious road cycling events – among them, the national tours of France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Poland, Oman and Australia – and attending four Olympic Games, and comments candidly on subjects ranging from injuries, chronic illness and exhaustion to interpersonal relationships, team politics and the deep-rooted drug-taking that disadvantages ‘clean’ competitors and mars his beloved sport.
He tells of taking inspiration from the Dalai Lama and Belgian cartoon adventurer Tintin, starting a family by adopting Ethiopian-born baby Robel and dividing his downtime between home-bases in Switzerland and Barwon Heads.