Spin­ning wheels but go­ing places

De­spite be­ing in­volved in a sport con­sis­tently fight­ing off the spec­tre of drug al­le­ga­tions, our cy­clists rode tall in the sad­dle in 2006. By ROGER VAUGHAN

Townsville Bulletin - - Cycling -

CADEL Evans tells peo­ple he fin­ished ‘fourt­hand-a-half’ in this year’s Tour de France.

Of­fi­cially — for now — Evans fin­ished fifth, equalling Phil An­der­son as the best over­all Aus­tralian fin­isher in cy­cling’s great­est race.

It justly earned Evans the Aus­tralian Cy­clist Of The Year award.

Com­bined with last year’s eighth plac­ing, it also con­firms his rich po­ten­tial and raises the prospect of Evans one day reach­ing the Tour podium.

But like so much in world cy­cling at the mo­ment, Evans’ fi­nal Tour plac­ing is un­clear.

He must wait un­til an Amer­i­can dop­ing panel hears the case against Tour win­ner Floyd Lan­dis, whose pos­i­tive test was an­nounced less than a week af­ter the race ended.

If the panel up­holds the test re­sult, with the hear­ing to take place in the next few months, then Lan­dis loses the Tour ti­tle and Evans could be el­e­vated to fourth.

The Lan­dis case was the last thing cy­cling needed — the day be­fore the Tour started, race favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were among sev­eral rid­ers forced to with­draw from the race.

They were im­pli­cated in an on­go­ing Span­ish ju­di­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion, co­de­named Op­er­a­tion Puerto, which had al­legedly un­cov­ered a ma­jor dop­ing net­work.

Aus­tralian star Al­lan Davis was an­other with­drawal when his en­tire team pulled out of the race.

Nat­u­rally, cy­cling’s im­age took a bat­ter­ing from all this.

But so far, no author­ity has found any­one guilty of any­thing and the Span­ish au­thor­i­ties are un­likely to make any rul­ings on the case un­til well into next year.

Af­ter weeks of un­cer­tainty, Davis learnt he was free to com­pete again, with no charges to be laid, and he is now try­ing to ar­range a pro­fes­sional con­tract.

Cy­cling’s dop­ing-re­lated woes this year beg the on­go­ing ques­tions — how clean is the sport, and to what ex­tent is it a scape­goat?

Spec­u­la­tion per­sists that sev­eral sports were im­pli­cated in Op­er­a­tion Puerto, but so far only one has suf­fered.

‘‘We’ve cer­tainly been badly treated — me­dia, of­fi­cials, po­lice — (af­ter) all the com­mo­tion that was go­ing on, noth­ing has ac­tu­ally hap­pened,’’ Evans said.

In the midst of this, Aus­tralian cy­cling con­tin­ues to en­joy a sus­tained boom of pop­u­lar­ity and ex­cel­lence.

The home coun­try won 11 out of 18 cy­cling gold medals in March at the Melbourne Com­mon­wealth Games.

A decade ago, Pa­trick Jonker fin­ished 12th over­all in the Tour de France and was named over­all Aus­tralian cy­clist of the year — this year, Mick Rogers fin­ishes 10th (or maybe ninth) and can­not even make the fi­nal­ists for the men’s road cy­cling award.

Rob­bie McEwen won the Tour’s green jer­sey for the third time, plus three Tour stages and three stages of the Tour of Italy, but Evans took the road and over­all awards ahead of him.

Over­com­ing a ca­reerthreat­en­ing back in­jury, track star Anna Meares won the 500m time trial at the Games and last month broke the world record for the event.

Af­ter los­ing the gold medal ride-off to Eng­land at the Games, the Aus­tralian teams pur­suit squad up­set Great Bri­tain a few weeks later to re­claim the world ti­tle.

The pur­suit quar­tet in­cluded Matt Goss, who also starred on the road in Europe as a mem­ber of the new SouthAus­tralia.comAIS team. He and team­mate Matthew Lloyd gained pro­fes­sional con­tracts late this year af­ter strong re­sults in un­der-23 and un­der-26 com­pe­ti­tion.

SouthAus­tralia.com-AIS rep­re­sented an­other step to­wards Aus­tralian cy­cling’s d r e a m o f a f u l l y - pro­fes­sional road squad from this coun­try rac­ing in the Tour de France.

In moun­tain bik­ing, Sam Hill won the men’s down­hill at the world cham­pi­onships in New Zealand and Tracey Han­nah won the ju­nior women’s down­hill ti­tle.

But for all its tri­umphs, c y c l i n g r e m a i n s a n in­her­ently-dan­ger­ous sport.

Young Vic­to­rian cy­clist Scott Peo­ples was killed ear­lier this month while train­ing.

Wheel­chair-bound Re­nee Junga re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion at the Cy­clist Of The Year awards when she re­ceived her BMX tro­phy.

Junga needed spinal surgery af­ter a train­ing crash just be­fore the moun­tain bike worlds.

Road cy­clist Paul Crake also needed an op­er­a­tion on his spine af­ter his crash dur­ing a Novem­ber race in New Zealand.

July 19 marked the first an­niver­sary of the crash in Ger­many that killed Amy Gil­lett.

T e a m m a t e s A l e x i s Rhodes, Kate Ni­cholls and Lo­rian Gra­ham have re­turned to com­pe­ti­tion, with Rhodes re­mark­ably mak­ing the Games team.

Re­flect­ing cy­cling’s pop­u­lar­ity and the ef­fect of the ac­ci­dent, about 3000 rid­ers took part in a Jan­uary char­ity ride at Gee­long to sup­port the Amy Gil­lett Foun­da­tion.

Among them was na­tional women’s coach War­ren McDon­ald, who en­dured a hellish few months af­ter wit­ness­ing the crash.

McDon­ald has spo­ken of­ten since the crash about per­spec­tive and re­al­is­ing what is im­por­tant in life.

In early Au­gust, while scan­dal and con­tro­versy were at their height in Euro­pean cy­cling, he and wife Sian be­came first-time par­ents with Finn’s ar­rival.

Her­aldSun­tour, won his third green jer­sey in 2006

FOURTH-AND-HALF . . . Cadel Evans fin­ished fifth in this year’s Tour de France, but may have his stand­ing el­e­vated if Amer­i­can Floyd Lan­dis is stripped of the crown

SPRINT KING . . . Rob­bie McEwen, with Si­mon Ger­rans in the

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