Australia became Belgium overnight in July, as it seemed the entire country stayed awake into the wee hours to watch Cadel Evans seal a historic win at the 2011 Tour de France. Post-Tour engagements piled up, including a media conference by team sponsor BMC at Eurobike, Germany.
[Note: the following Q+A is compiled from several journalists who attended the media conference. Evans' answers are transcribed in full, but questions have been shortened for readability]
You won it this time.
Certainly everyone who follows racing knows I’ve been six times at the Tour, twice finished second. Be it last year or 2008, luck was the difference between winning and losing. But this year in the team there was a special feeling and a sense of strong unity and quiet confidence. That’s what really brought us through and experience with this group of people the biggest victory in my career. it’s still something I’m coming to terms with.
Your brief race summary?
We were somewhat criticized in the first week for wasting alot of energy in second at two seconds behind Hushovd in the first 7-8 days. Later in it proved to be perfect positioning. Moving onto the Champs Elysee in yellow – I’ve been in yellow numerous occasions before, it’s all conditioning for being in the yellow for the future – my team mates like it too! It was already a honour for Andy to have a yellow impec, but this year to ride it into yellow on the Champs Elysees it was far and beyond the dreams of many cyclists to be able to live that. It was really something else.
Now you’ve won the TdF, what’s you motivation now?
Well, I’d like to try and win another Tour de France! That’s what we’re planning on initially and of course beyond that it’s going to be an Olympic year next year. As I understand, the Australian team is keen to have me back on the national team. I’d love to prepare for a good world championship race again.
On the last TT, it seemed you were able to go faster on the downhill than others. Is that your MTB background?
I’ve been focused on improving my TT since coming into road cycling in 2002. My equipment selection is all geared around taking the time that I can. Stefano Cattai and I were having a discussion before the TT about TT tyres (versus) road tyres and over 40km what seconds we could save. (We decided) “we’ll go with the sticky ones that grip” because I’d rather be convinced on the downhill sections of the course. It was really a day that I knew would be important. Even when you’re exhausted you still have to go fast.
How do you stay focused all the time?
Over time you learn to adapt to your environment. The first Grand Tour I did (is an example of the) intense concentration and focus. After day 12 or 13 I remember being lost in the hotel not being able to find my room. I thought “wow, I’m really fatigued here”. My legs could walk from room to room, but my head couldn’t find it. It’s an aspect of the racing that isn’t considered so much, but the focus needed is one of the most important parts of the race. It’s mentally very draining. You try to recover when you can.
What about commercial opportunities from your win?
I’ve worked with other companies than BMC outside of racing. Particularly in Australia now, it’s captured attention on so many more levels and there’s plenty of commercial interest. In the end I’m someone who’s focused on quality instead of quantity and I choose only to be involved with one or two companies. My commercial aspect is a little bit the same. I’d rather only work with one or two or maybe three companies, but work with them well and do it properly and work with people that I can trust and believe in. Whether we’re selling bikes or ketchup or whatever – I don’t sell ketchup! – it’s quality not quantity.
BMC is not your first racing team. What is so unique about BMC? Andy Rihs says it’s more like a family.
That’s very true. In my career, I’ve raced in American, Italian, German, Belgium teams. BMC team is simply a strong unity, but right from bottom to top and top to bottom we’re a team. Everyone respects one another. Everyone tries to do the best for one another. I think this philosophy comes a little bit from Andy, a little bit from Jim as well who’s probably the man who decides yes or no who is acquired by the team and the direction the team takes. On both parts, Jim’s got a few little formulas – I call them formulas – some ideas that he always sticks to. That brings together a group of people that want to be close to the team, and as a team we’re very close to our sponsor in the sense we give feedback technically, working with engineers who are very regularly at the races and outside the races it’s all a very close knit group. But, above all, there’s a tremendous level of respect amongst everyone and there’s an underlying motivation to do the best we can as a team and that’s the basis of the unity. I think that’s what gave us our sucess at the TdF this year.
BMC is a sponsor and bike brand. Practically, how does this relationship work?
Technically, I started with the new TM01 bike at the Dauphine this year. That’s the bike I had the most to do with in the technical development. The engineers do all the drawings and hard stuff, I just have to ride the bike. Above all, the testing of the first prototype started in training camp in May and (later on) it was just after the Tour of Romandie we started working in the wind tunnel and making refinements on fit and so on. Thanks to Stefano Cattai (BMC Racing Team technical liason) working very closely with my coach, who’s also my biomechanist and is really quite experienced in that area, we came together for the equipment, wheels, position and so on. There were many hours of work on my part, but months and even years to bring that bike together and the equipment together to do what we did in Grenoble.
Was it love at first sight with the new TM01?
When I first saw the bike, I though “oh, stealth black, it’s gonna be fast!”. Initially, my first ride was down a very long mountain pass which they did in the Vuelta Espana just the other day. I rode downhill first. It’s very important to test the bike at very high speeds and my initial feeling – looking back to the TT01, I thought we already had a great bike – was quickness, responsiveness and rigidity. There’s a delicate balance between rigidity and comfort, but also comfort on a TT bike is not like a road bike. in terms of the quickness of the steering, too rigid compromises the handling. To be comfortable (I understand) – energy transfer etc, that’s something you need to ask the engineers about. I just point it down the hill and pedal! Beyond that, for them to get my position and also benefit a triathlete, that’s really something that sets this bike apart. You can see the handlebars are so low I can actually clean the front tyre without moving my hands from the handlebars. My position is very extreme, but there’s very few bikes in the industry where I can get my optimal aero position and fit in with the UCI. And now this bike is available to anyone today.
Is this bike faster? How much help is the bike to you?
In percentage terms, this is where we need one of our fine engineers to do the calculations. When we start looking at device, chainstays, integrated brakes, it’s two watts here at 45kmh, two watts here at 45kmh, 8 watts, 4 watts… that’s where it really starts to add up. But saving watts by aerodynamics… it’s always (a question of) “can you save watts on a bike that’s rigid, that’s reliable, that handles well down the hill, that gets you to the finish without problems, that fits within the (UCI) rules so you can in reasonable comfort pedal for an hour…”, that’s where it starts to get really complicated. I can’t put a number term on it – that’s because my maths isn’t good enough – but as soon as we started wind-tunnel testing and on the track I could see percentage improvements here and there.
Is there still room to improve?
There’s future development in the rear wheel area to accommodate wider rims. I understand there is some development with rim widths in the future and then also we can make component selections. I don’t have a crystal ball though…
How about your favourite bike?
I’ve always liked the SLR. It’s more directed towards being a classics bike. One thing I go for, the reason I choose the SLR, is because the roads that we ride on in the TdF aren’t actually as good as they appear on TV. The roads that I train on are also the same. Maybe because of my old age, comfort more than speed! I’m also riding the same bike that can be bought in a shop which is interesting on the retail side of things. It’s a classics bike more so, but it wins the TdF as well. I’m quite affectionate of it. Apart from the distinctive design that BMC has, it’s yellow…. has a natural carbon finish which speaks to the quality of carbon work that BMC does. Handling, stability, reliability and having Easton wheels with aluminium spokes is important. I’m sure full carbon wheels are good and fast but I have my well-being to think about and I prefer to go with things that are safer and sturdier.
Finally, do you think the UCI holds back bicycle design?
The UCI’s objective is, number one, to keep cycling affordable as I understand. Also, you have to have rules and regulations that can be regulated! Sometimes rules need to be simplified for that sake. In some aspects, I agree (with the rules). I came into cycling in a very modest way. I came into a sport which didn’t require a huge financial investment from my parents. I was only 13 or 14 years of age and didn’t have alot of money available to me. I could come into the sport, so in that regard I can see and credit them (the UCI) for keeping the sport more affordable but at the same time there are certain areas where the bicycle industry, if they didn’t have these regulations, they could develop faster and more efficient equipment. To what degree of safety and reliability, I’m not so sure. There’s an area to improve if there weren’t regulations. In the end, all industries have heavy regulations whether it’s the automobile industry, building houses, etc, etc. There certainly has to be some regulations to keep things in check.