Q&A: Cadel Evans on the CAAD11, and other questions from VeloClub members

We asked our subscribers if they had questions for Cadel. Here are his answers.

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A couple weeks back I got the opportunity to chat to an icon of Australian cycling, Cadel Evans. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Where Are They Now? article I wrote from that interview.

Before doing that interview I reached out to our VeloClub members (Evans himself is a VeloClub member, it turns out) to see if they had questions for the 2011 Tour de France winner. And when I spoke to Evans, I put some of those questions to him.

Here are his answers, starting with a topic that many people were keen to know about. This article was first made available to VeloClub members last week.

Matt de Neef: There’s a rumour Cannondale skipped the CAAD11 model name because it sounded too similar to your name. Have you ever heard anything about that?

Cadel Evans: No, I never heard of that. There was a discussion in the ‘90s between an athlete and some people in marketing in Cannondale, about having a “CAAD something”, and it was quickly extinguished.

But there is the other aspect – as a Tour de France winner, I have to have a trademark on my name. Should I take that as a compliment or something? But it may be because it’s in the realm of cycling, with the trademark rules it [CAAD11] might be too close. I don’t know the exact intricacies of trademark law. That to me would be the most logical one.

What’s the one race you wish you’d won but never did, and why? (Michael Holden)

There’s probably two I’d say. I would have liked to have been able to have a better shot … not a better shot; I was in the race but I couldn’t quite train for them as well as I wanted to … Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia. I would have been maybe just a little bit more satisfied with my career if I’d had them on my resume, palmares.

Tour of Lombardy I always got there exhausted at the end of the season and Liège I was in the build-up towards the stage races. I sort of couldn’t afford to do so much specific training or a lot of long, long rides to get into the final. Whereas Flèche-Wallonne [which Evans won in 2010], because it was a bit shorter, I could still be right there to the end.

I used to find at Liège “Yeah yeah, it’s good, it’s good.” And then we’d get to 50 km to go and I was like “ooooh”. But that was all part of the coach I was working with and what we were doing because, what I didn’t spend on that I could afford to do a second Grand Tour for GC or something, or I could be in the top 10 at Lombardy until the end of the season and so on.

It was all calculated, but they are the races I would have preferred to do better in.

Evans winning the 2010 Flèche Wallonne ahead of Joaquin Rodriguez and Alberto Contador.

I am curious if he still follows professional cycling closely, and if so, who his favorite riders are. (Fikret Atalay)

Yeah, I follow it a little bit, but more so the results. I don’t sit down all day watching races on TV and things. I never did and I still don’t. I don’t watch much TV, that’s the thing, not because I don’t like watching bike races. I just don’t like spending so many hours, not getting much done. 

But I watch the final of the big races and things. I’ll watch a good chunk of Roubaix or something  – I can’t resist – or Worlds, I can’t resist. Actually, my partner Stefania, she watches every stage of the Giro and things. And since we’ve been living together, I actually probably watch more bike races because she’s watching them. She’s a skier, but she watches all the bike races. So I watch a bit.

I was following the riders closely with Dimension Data and BMC when we partnered with them. And then new members of the family came along and so the priorities changed a bit, and the pandemic and so on.

So I don’t watch. I will look at the results, I watch some of the riders, I watch some of the Aussies, but I don’t follow the racing as closely as some avid cycling fans do. But I do read more of the news, tech developments, I still follow diet and nutrition. Those kinds of things just out of personal taste. But I’m not so much the crazy race fan.

If I go to a bike race it’s for a work reason because I’m there with BMC or doing something, and I end up just talking to everyone and meeting with people. It’s more a place to hold meetings than to go and enjoy watching a bike race.

[I asked him who his favourite riders were.]

I’ve loved watching the rise of [Mathieu] van der Poel and [Wout] van Aert. I don’t know Van Aert personally, but I love the way he races. And the fact that he’s an all-rounder doing cyclocross and road. Same with Tom Pidcock – I’ve never met him personally. I don’t know him. But winning mountain bike, cyclocross, road – it’s awesome.

And the way the racing’s changed; it’s become so much more intense and the sacrifices and the dedication has become always more and more. And so I admire the riders that are there and the guys at the front.

I was lucky enough to do a gran fondo a few years ago and meet Rogla [Primož Roglič] before he became [a big name] … and got to know him. And I just have to say he was really a super nice guy, really interesting guy. His wife and my Stefania became good friends, and his first child was born just around the same time ours was. We got a friendship going on. I leave him alone now because I think everyone probably wants his time. So I haven’t heard from him for a while.

But between Rogla, Wout, I admire Van der Poel but I suppose my favourite riders are probably Wout and Rogla right now. [Julian] Alaphilippe as well. Just his love to race and be there. He’s managed to be a very versatile rider, especially when he was there with the yellow jersey in the Tour [in 2019]. He’s got a bit of old-school about him, but he’s doing it in cycling now, which I really, really like.

Evans during the cross-country MTB race at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

As a BMC Ambassador, what is his overall involvement? Does he have a say in bike development for example, or is it simply representing the brand. (Chris Young)

When I stopped racing, I was doing a lot of time and travel and events with BMC. Global ambassador is my role at BMC. Of course, with the pandemic, like for so many people, it’s just slowed down. That puts a huge brake on all the activities we were doing there and with the company, of course.

I’m still involved, but more in the insider things and company meetings and sitting there, listening to the numbers and how it’s going and talking sometimes with the engineers and so on on future projects. But that’s sort of been a bit less and less. Going forward, coming back to Australia, that’ll probably remain quieter.

[I asked whether he was more involved in testing earlier on.]

Yeah, I was more involved with the testing. If you have a professional to design a bike for you, while it might sound good, one thing: I’m not an engineer, I’m not a carbon fibre expert. Coming into the place I am in cycling now today, I see it more and more – I find myself explaining it often – the requirements of a bike for a professional are very, very different from what the rest of us want or need.

And so if I were designing a bike for the way that I ride, people would say it’s too stiff, it’s too heavy, it’s too …. But as a professional, you need a very robust bike. Whereas most people buying a bike, they want the lightest, delicate thing that they can afford, really.

I was involved in testing and I think my probably biggest influence came in the maintaining of the … compliance was probably the biggest influence I had through the various iterations, especially with the race bike, the SLR TeamMachine which I suppose I can say, has been my little baby because it’s the bike that I started in 2011 in the Tour de France and I still ride them today.

But through its various generations, if people find it too soft, that’s my fault. If people find it very comfortable and agile and a great accelerating bike, well, that’s my fault as well. There are things that show up well in bike tests and especially the tests that are done in the laboratory, but what’s good on the road?

Comfort, I find, is very often underrated in bike design and even people, by choice, they look at the stiffness ratings … if you’ve ever tried driving a car without suspension, you’d understand how important suspension is.

What’s his favourite bike to ride and route to take? (Anthony Privetera)

I’ve just been over here [in Australia] for three weeks and the last ride I did was Bells Beach but that was a fundraising ride. I rode a BMC of course, Roadmachine. I’ve just switched back to Shimano, Dura Ace. The main reason for that being, well, it’s my road bike of choice since the bike was developed in 2016.

I wanted to bring over my new SLR that I was given for 10 years of the Tour but with an integrated stem, you need a large box and it just got too complicated. I really wanted to come to Australia and I didn’t want to put any large boxes in the process that were going to compromise that.

And I love riding the URS. Not the front suspension – I’m just happy with the URS normal one. It has a little bit of softening, dampening on the rear end. But I have it set up a bit more like a groad bike. I can still with ride the local pros in the group, but I can go on and that’s when I’m in Europe. I’d love to have one here, actually; that’s the bike that I actually really wanted to bring because down here there’s so many options with gravel roads and of course, with the increase in traffic and everything. I might have to ask some favours around to get another URS. 

Where I live in Switzerland, there’s not many dirt roads. It’s either like single track for MTBing or it’s a paved road. There’s not really much in between, not where I live anyway. Because it’s sort of so populated that gravel roads are kind of a bit of wasted time. I like it because you can go up on like the really old little farm roads and partially asphalted or something and they have sections of gravel. And then when I find a nice bit of trail or something, I use it. I can still go and explore in the forest or something.

[I asked him about his favourite ride from his Australian home of Barwon Heads.]

It’s my birthday next weekend. I’m allowed to go out for a ride and I was just going to ride down the Great Ocean Road actually. See how far I can go. I’ll have my time limit. I don’t know if I’ll have time to get to Lorne and back. That’s a ride I used to love to do. It’s about four hours there and back from here. That’s probably my favourite ride of all, in this area.

With the trend for WorldTour road teams to sign riders really young, how does he think he would have fared with this and would it have influenced him to jump across from mountain bikes at a younger age? (Ian Persson)

I had the idea to go through to the Sydney Olympics [on] mountain bike, and I was 23 in the year 2000 when the Olympics were here. And then after that I was like, “Oh, let’s see what happens.” And that was 2001, the year after, no longer being an U23, that I raced both road and mountain.

It was more the internal goings-on in the mountain bike team I was in and the fact that all these road teams wanted to have me … and then Mapei comes to you and “Would you like to join us and become a Grand Tour rider?” when you’re 23 years old. You’re sort of like “Second career in cycling? This could be fantastic.”

We had some internal friction in the mountain bike team and I wasn’t enjoying going to the races anymore in the mountain bike racing. I still enjoyed riding and that. And then in between races I was racing with Cannondale-Saeco [on the road] and they were like “Cadel, come here, let’s go in the breakaway, left, right there. Just follow [Davide] Rebellin, you’ll be fine.” Until you blow up, yeah.

I just remember once or twice going to races and he was there and it was like “just follow him”. Sure enough he won and I was fifth or something.

Are there any significant changes planned for the return of Cadel’s Race in 2023 (crossing fingers that it does indeed return in 2023)? (Robert Merkel)

Well, I won’t disclose the details because we’ve still got a few things to work on, but we’re hoping to make some significant changes to making it much more interesting.

We’re always looking to improve things and as a race organiser: are the riders having a good time? Are they happy with the food, was the transport smooth? But then of course, the things that everyone sees: the course, the distances and so on. That’s an area that … more people see it so they think it’s more important, but if riders don’t come here and have a good time, my thing is they may not come back.

So for me, it’s equally important that the riders come here, have a good experience, go away fit, healthy. It gives them a good springboard to the start of the year or into the next races and so on. But yeah, we’re looking to make things bigger and better.

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