Cycling: No one can replicate Lance effect

Former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (in black), a global ambassador for the BMC racing team, followed by cyclists from the Singapore Cycling Federation at Seletar yesterday.
Former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (in black), a global ambassador for the BMC racing team, followed by cyclists from the Singapore Cycling Federation at Seletar yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

But 2011 Tour winner Evans backs Froome to make history by lifting back-to-back titles

Australia's only Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans, has no doubt that Briton Chris Froome is the strong favourite to become the first man since Miguel Indurain to claim back-to-back Tour victories this year.

The Spanish legend won five straight titles from 1991-95.

But as much as Evans rates Froome highly and paints him as professional cycling's current poster boy, the 39-year-old admits it is almost impossible for the two-time Tour de France champion to take the sport back to Lance Armstrong's pre-ban glory days.

The disgraced American initially captured the world's imagination when he beat testicular cancer in 1997 and won seven consecutive Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.

However, in 2012, he was stripped of his Tour de France victories after he was found guilty of doping. Until today, opinion is divided on the 44-year-old's legacy but Evans cannot dismiss the level of popularity he brought to the sport.

He said: "I don't think anyone can reach the heights of Lance Armstrong because his whole story was so incredible. I suppose now, the most talked-about cyclist is the winner of the Tour de France and Froome looks to be headed towards another one at this point of time.

CLEANING UP THE SPORT'S IMAGE

Cyclists are not just the most drug-tested athletes in sport but also the most drug-tested members of society - more than any other profession.

CADEL EVANS, former professional cyclist.

"Whether he or someone can ever get to the heights of Lance Armstrong, I don't know if that will ever happen again. And unfortunately even if it is repeated, I don't think people will be able to believe it."

Evans, who retired from professional cycling last year, stopped over in Singapore to represent the BMC racing team as a global ambassador for his first visit to the Republic. He arrived on Thursday and will leave for Switzerland today to continue outreach efforts.

The Australian, along with more than 20 cyclists from the Singapore Cycling Federation, pedalled 46km from Marina Bay Sands to Seletar Aerospace View on a cool morning yesterday and enjoyed breakfast at Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe.

In agreement that cycling has taken a long time to recover from Armstrong's fall from grace, Evans said the sport has made a huge effort to wipe out the cheating stain. He said: "People forget that cycling is at the forefront of drug testing.

"Cyclists are not just the most drug-tested athletes in sport but also the most drug-tested members of society - more than any other profession in the world. Cycling has moved ahead and it's been a different environment for a long time."

Evans also shared his thoughts on Froome's dramatic Mont Ventoux finish on Thursday when he crashed into a motorcycle and had to run some of the way up the mountain. He said: "Guys like Richie Porte and Chris Froome, they do everything right but when something like that (crash) happens, it might be the difference between winning and losing the Tour. That's not the way racing is meant to be.

"It doesn't reflect well on our sport but above all, as a professional cyclist, it's your job to get a result and when it gets held up by factors far beyond your control, that's frustrating."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'No one can replicate Lance effect'. Print Edition | Subscribe