“I don’t miss racing”

Cy­cling champ Cadel Evans reveals that, for the most part, he’s happy to have swapped hill climbs for home chores. But with a new baby on the way, he ac­cepts there won’t be too much sleep in his near fu­ture

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy NICK SCOTT Styling IRENE TSOLAKAS In­ter­view PA­TRICK CAR­LYON

For­mer cy­cling great Cadel Evans and his preg­nant part­ner Stefania join Stel­lar for a relaxed shoot, where he speaks about leav­ing com­pe­ti­tion for a new life.

On lazy days, Cadel Evans washes a car. He has plenty of them to choose from: a Mus­tang and a Cadil­lac fea­ture in col­lec­tions spread across his homes in Barwon Heads, Vic­to­ria, and in Switzer­land. “When ev­ery­one else goes off to the of­fice, I just sit at home and tinker with my bikes and cars,” the 2011 Tour de France win­ner ad­mits. He has re­dis­cov­ered the joys of child­hood, he jokes, ex­cept that his toys are big­ger and cost more.

Such or­di­nar­i­ness was de­prived Evans as an elite ath­lete, when 340 days a year were con­sumed with train­ing and racing. “A lot of peo­ple ask if I miss the racing and I don’t,” the for­mer cham­pion tells Stel­lar over cof­fee. “I don’t miss the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion to per­form at such a high level, but I do en­joy rid­ing even more be­cause there’s no-one to tell me I’m go­ing too fast or too slow.”

Evans got to his late 30s with­out trim­ming a hedge or mow­ing a lawn. Un­til 2015, and his re­tire­ment as the third-ranked cy­clist in the world, Evans didn’t know about lazy days and leisurely bike rides; in­stead, he told him­self if he suf­fered harder and longer than his com­peti­tors, he would beat them more.

“I’m happy to stay home,” he says with the grin of some­one who has only re­cently stum­bled onto sim­ple plea­sures. “[Do­ing chores] might sound very bor­ing to many, but when you don’t get to have it you re­alise it’s kind of nice.” Now when he cy­cles, he re­cap­tures the

feeling of soli­tude he en­joyed as a fouryear-old on a bike grow­ing up in the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity of Barunga in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory. “Free­dom – that’s what [rid­ing] rep­re­sented to me. I ride to stay fit and healthy… I just ride my bike to free my head, gain per­spec­tive.”

His easy chat­ter gives the sense that Evans, at 41, is ready for the kind of challenge that no train­ing pre­pares you for. He and his part­ner Stefania Zan­donella are about to have a baby boy.

Zan­donella, a 28-year- old ski in­struc­tor, is “over the moon”, Evans says. They met in 2014, and she sup­ported him in the wake of his mar­riage break­down. They have a lot in com­mon, he says. “We’re both sports peo­ple, we still do them but at a much lower level. And that’s the ba­sis of our life, be­ing healthy and ac­tive.”

Their boy is due on Jan­uary 13 – less than two weeks be­fore Evans is ex­pected back in Aus­tralia from his Switzer­land home for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, which has grown in size and pres­tige each year since 2015.

“I’m not look­ing for­ward to not get­ting much sleep, but I think that’s nor­mal,” he says. “I look at it as the start of an ad­ven­ture be­cause I don’t know what it’s go­ing to be like. I look at it as a bit of a journey and a des­ti­na­tion un­known.”

Evans is speak­ing of the early days: he oth­er­wise has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence in fa­ther­ing. In 2012 he and his then-wife, Chiara Passerini, with whom he an­nounced his split in 2015, adopted a 15-month-old boy, Ro­bel, who had been aban­doned in the streets of Ethiopia.

He likes rid­ing with Ro­bel, who he picks up from school ev­ery Wed­nes­day. “I cook him lunch and we go to a fish­ing lake near my home – fish­ing is his lat­est thing now, not so much cy­cling,” he says, adding that Ro­bel also loves to sail.

Ro­bel has taught Evans about per­spec­tive: Evans trav­els a lot in his role as an am­bas­sador for Swiss brand BMC and for his bike race, but his high­est pri­or­ity “is not be­ing away from my lit­tle guy”. His trips home to Aus­tralia – he makes three a year – are short, so that he doesn’t miss too much time with Ro­bel.

Evans was not close to his own fa­ther, who split with his mother when Evans was young. They moved to north­ern NSW when he was four, then Arthurs Creek, about 45km from Mel­bourne, where high school was a 10km bike ride away.

His mother never pushed him. He found bikes for him­self, in a pas­sion that blos­somed into an un­likely ca­reer. When he strug­gled to rise from bed, or through the Alpe d’huez climb dur­ing the Tour de France, he would re­call the teenager with the dream. His grit gave him an edge over elite cy­clists who had eas­ier rises through the sport. “I see some of my col­leagues who didn’t have that, who came through to the sport through a slightly smoother road than what I did, and they weren’t as pre­pared to deal with dif­fi­cul­ties later on in their ca­reer.”

Evans hopes what works in elite sport may also ap­ply to the ev­ery­day tra­vails of baby par­ent­ing – “rou­tine, rou­tine, rou­tine”. But he ad­mits he will sneak in some ex­tra sleep be­fore his son’s ar­rival. Just in case. The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race runs Jan­uary 24–27, 2019.

“It’s the start of an ad­ven­ture. I don’t know what it’s go­ing to be like”

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