For Cadel Evans, the journey to the national championships began with a trip to Thredbo in 1992 and will end in Buninyong, on Sunday 11 January, at the 2015 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
In 1992 the ?Yell for Cadel? support squad consisted?of his?mum, Helen Cocks, and very few spectators, at the mountain bike national championships. A?lot has changed for Cadel and for cycling.
?I suppose I?m looked at in a different regard by the cycling public now, which is somewhat larger than it was in 1992,? the 37-year-old said.
?I?m going to Ballarat to ride the best race I can. If I get a result, that?s even better. I?m going there to race well and do my best.?
At last year?s Mars Road Nationals, when Cadel finished second on the Buninyong course behind Simon Gerrans, he witnessed just how far the sport has come.
?What was remarkable, and my greatest memory of the race, was when we were riding near the top of the climb and it had the ambience of a big European race,? he said.
?There was a real passion for the racing, people were happy to be out there, it was a beautiful day, and they had created a unique ambience in a one-day race right there in Ballarat.
?Compliments to Ballarat for being a host city and being a supporter of cycling.?
But the thing that has never changed, throughout the career of Australia?s greatest cyclist, is his position as one of the men to watch.
?Today the chances of victory are probably the same as in 1992, maybe even less, because I?m so watched now as a rider,? he said.
?Don?t get me wrong, I?d love to win the road race at the national championships, but I?m just realistic about it. I?m going to be the most watched guy out there.
Although the numbers will be against him, with just two BMC teammates for support against a nine-man Orica-GreenEDGE team, the course does suit him.
?It?s a solid course but the climb is still a fair way from the finish,? Evans said.
?But at this time of year 183 kilometers on that course is a hard race. It?s going to be a solid day on the bike.
?If I go in and have a hard race but don?t get a result, well, it?s good training towards the Tour Down Under. But if I can race hard and get a result, that?s even better.?
It will be the third last race of his distinguished career, which will end of Sunday 1 February, at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
For the Australian sporting public, seeing Evans close out his career as the Australian champion would be the fairytale ending. But the man himself isn?t getting distracted from the desire of others to see a Hollywood ending.
?I don?t believe in fairytales,? he said. ?We just have to be realistic about these things. We?ll prepare as well as we can, do the best race we can, and the result will tell the story.?
Regardless of the outcome at the Mars Road Nationals, the story of his career will go down as one of the best in Australian sport.?
Text via Cycling Australia Media Release