Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"The Art of Cycling" by Cadel Evans


Cadel Evans has a fixation on legs.  Scattered throughout his curiously titled autobiography "The Art of Cycling" is a deacription of the legs of a fellow rider.   It is often all he has to say about them.  It's as if his ghost writer asks him what he has to say about someone and all he can think of is what their legs look like.  

Of his fellow Tour de France winners he says of both Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador that their legs lack definition. He applies the same criticism to his BMC teammate Allesandro Ballan, the 2008 World Champion.  He also calls them soft, as he does Contador's.  He has nothing specific to say about the legs of the disgraced Michael Rasmussen other than, "One look at his legs and you wouldn't suspect he was a bicycle racer."   It's not clear if he's praising or damning the "big calves and thick ankles" of Alejandro Valverde.

The only legs, other than his own, that he compliments are those of 2012 World Champion Philippe Gilbert, who also rode with at BMC, saying they have "well-defined calves."  He doesn't offer much of a description of his own legs other than that they showed an "abundance of veins," indicating his training is going well.

Oddly he had nothing to say of the notorious legs of his teammate George Hincapie.  Mark Cavendish twice mentions his striking spaghetti of veins in his "Boy Racer," and English commentator Ned Boulting devotes a full paragraph to them in his book "How I Won the Yellow Jumper," comparing them to a family of vipers.  He calls them one of The Tour's greatest sights that one day will be numbered and given plaques like the twenty-one switchbacks of L'Alpe d'Huez.  But Evans has so much to say about Hincapie as his favorite teammate, he overlooks his legs. As well as he knows Hincapie, he fails to credit him for being the lone teammate of Lance Armstrong to ride on all seven of his Tour winning teams merely writing "he rode on several of Lance's wins."

Hincapie is one of the few people that Evans portrays in a positive light.  His book is a cascade of grievances, some so petty it's remarkable that they have stuck with him.  He rails against the lack of respect he's been given throughout his career.  The perpetrators include journalists, motorists, mechanics, fans, team directors, Tyler Hamilton at the 2002 Giro and his Australian teammates at the 2009 World Championships that he won.

He's "frustrated" when none of his teammates call him when he's in the hospital. He's "infuriated" by an ambulance driver after a different accident.  He's "furious" at Nairo Quintana attacking on a snowy stage in the Giro when the stage was neutralized.  He calls it a "pain in the ass" to have to ride a saddle of a sponsor.  Evans was known as a sourpuss and a whiner.  This book only confirms it.

He was also known for having one of the most anguished looks of pain and suffering on the bike.  He acknowledged, "It often looks as if I'm suffering because I often am.  I am proud of those photos.  Others look as if they're not in so much pain, because they weren't."

Though it often looks as if he's on the verge of tears, he only admits to crying once--at the 2009 Vuelta d'Espana when he appeared poised to win his first Grand Tour, but had a bad stage and ended up finishing third.  After his bad stage he retreated to the team bus and "for the first time ever I cry."  He bemoaned, "I don't deserve this shit."  The year after he was near tears during his 2010 season as World Champion.  "Talk of the rainbow curse bores me to tears," he wrote.

Others cried for him when he had a disastrous stage in his first Grand Tour, the 2002 Giro d'Italia.  He was leading the race but bonked on a climb and fell to fifteenth.  "People tell me, 'I cried on my couch for you," he wrote.  He was most upset that it wasn't until three years later that his team selected him to ride The Tour de France.  He finished eighth in his first attempt, but the highlight was proposing to his Italian girl friend in Paris after The Race.  Her response was a "I think so" through "teary-eyes."  She receives little mention through the book as their marriage was coming to an end ten years later as he wrote the book, which he doesn't mention.  That might have merited some tears.

The only other instance of tears was that of the female press officer for Cycling Australia after Evans became the first Australian to win the road World Championships.  Two years later he became the first Australian  to win The Tour de France after twice finishing second by less than a minute.  He certainly had an extraordinary career.  It is a shame he didn't seem to be able to fully enjoy it, constantly dwelling on one peeve after another.  Rather than celebrating his many successes, this book is an outlet for getting a lot of things off his chest. It ought to have been titled "The Art of Whining" rather than "The Art of Cycling."