Cadel Evans attacks on the Corkscrew Road climb, distancing his GC rivals and the rest of the field.

Australian Road Nationals: A fitting end if Cadel Evans wins?

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There’s been a lot of talk of the favourites going into the elite men’s road race at this week’s Australian Road National Championships. With Simon Gerrans recovering from a broken collarbone and no longer a contender, things open up considerably. Could this be the year for Richie Porte? Could Mick Rogers take victory? Or could Cadel Evans take victory in his third-to-last race as a professional?

Orica-GreenEdge has won the national champion’s jersey all three years of the team’s existence, and I’ve taken great pleasure seeing that jersey worn in the pro peloton in the biggest races in the world. Seeing Simon Gerrans win Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in that jersey made those victories extra special for me.

Cadel Evans has arguably been the most influential Australian cyclist of all time, his world title in 2009 and Tour de France win in 2011 further demonstrating the strength of Australian cycling. But he’s never won a national road title.

Cadel is one of the hot favourites to win in Buninyong on Sunday. After his impressive second place to Simon Gerrans last year on the same circuit (not to mention his Tour Down Under exploits) it’s clear Cadel knows how to bring himself up to form early in the season. This is the deepest and most competitive field we’ve ever seen (see startlist here), and that favours his chances even more.

So what if Cadel were to win the green and gold? Would winning the jersey be a fairytale end to his remarkable career? Would the jersey come out for two races then be thrown into the dresser? If so, would that be good for Australian cycling; to not have the green and gold bands on show for most of a year? We saw a similar thing when Peter McDonald won the nationals in 2009. His win was thrilling to see, but the jersey was not seen on the world stage nor did he have the desire to progress his career.

As much as I love seeing the underdog win, I believe that if a low profile rider were to take the jersey from a small team it would be a shame to see it fade into obscurity for a year. However, if Cadel were to take the honours this Sunday, to me it would be a fitting and symbolic ending to the career of a rider who’s done such a service to Australian cycling, even if the jersey wasn’t seen for most of the season.

Remember how Cadel wore those rainbow stripes in 2010? He raced his guts out from the Tour Down Under until the World Championships came around again and did that jersey proud. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cadel lace up the shoes for another 12 months to simply honour the jersey were he to win on Sunday. He’d certainly do it proud at the Tour Down Under and his Great Ocean Road Race at the very least.

For all his quirks, Cadel Evans has great respect for the sport and has never shirked his responsibilities as an athlete, even if they are only self-imposed.

So what’s best for the jersey? Leave your thoughts below. Whichever way the race goes I’m looking forward to being on the roadside in Buninyong this Sunday to find out who’ll be wearing the green and gold afterwards. It’ll be a race to remember.

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