Old Willunga Hill, the most famous hill in Australian cycling, the maker of so many great cyclists. Past winners on the hill include the big names; Simon Gerrans, Richie Porte, Alejandro Valverde, and of course Alberto Contador. One rider who has not won up there however (and now due to his retirement, will never win up there) is the most famous man in Australian cycling; Cadel Evans.
Despite Willunga Hill missing from his incredible list of achievements, Cadel is still the most successful Australian cyclist to have ever graced a bike.
He’s won the Tour de France once, finished on the podium two other times, he’s also finished on the podium of the other two Grand Tours and the Tour Down Under. He’s won the world championships, La Fleche Wallone, and countless other smaller tours and one day races. In short he’s done more on the professional Cycling circuit than almost every pro Australian cyclist that has come before him combined.
A professional career of pedalling pushies that has spanned almost two decades, Cadel started off as a Mountain Biker, originally due to his love of racing his bike as a kid around the Katherine in the Northern Territory. From racing with kangaroos in a remote town in the outback Cadel graduated to be top of his class in 1993, winning the U17 Mountain Bike National Championships. He repeated in the U19 category in 1994 and in 1995 he finished third in the U19 World Mountain Bike Championships and third in the U19 World Individual Time Trial Championships. Then in 1996 he came of age finishing 9th in the Atlanta Olympics in the Mountain Bike discipline. It wasn’t until 1999 however that he truly showed what was to come in the cycling world, winning the young riders jersey at the Tour Down Under.
Since then, spectators and riders alike have been treated to 16 years of true Aussie Grit on the road circuit. It took 6 more years and countless wins in smaller races until Cadel announced himself as a Grand Tour contender, finishing 8th in the 2005 Tour de France. The next three years saw a 4th and two 2nds but it wasn’t until the now infamous 2010 Tour de France where Cadel potentially stamped himself as Australia’s greatest ever rider. Controlling the race from start to finish, as what were considered superior riders, the Schlecks, Contador, et al, fell by the way side, unable to maintain Cadel’s constant pace and superiority of the race. Australia invaded France that year as Australian flags lined the most historic mountains in the world of Cycling and witnessed the first ever Australian to win the yellow jersey.
Now this week as Cadel rides his last ever ProTour event in Adelaide, Australian flags line the roads and we all say a tearful goodbye. Thanks for the memories Cadel, Australian cycling owes the world to you. Farewell.