Cadel Evans.
Cadel Evans. AAP

Evans inspires next cycling stars

JACK van Hoof reckons the experience of Tour de France winner Cadel Evans as a mountain bike rider helped him claim the yellow jersey on Sunday night.

After taking the lead with a great performance in the individual time trial on Saturday, it was a day of celebration for Evans on Sunday when he rode on the Champs Elysees in Paris to become the first Australian to win the sport’s greatest race and, at 34, the oldest tour champion in 88 years.

van Hoof recalls watching Evans competing in mountain bike riding on television 12 years ago.

“You could see his ability, physique, know how and skill on a mountain bike and I told friends at the time that if he moved to the road, he could win the Tour de France,” van Hoof said.

“They didn’t believe me.”

van Hoof said the mountain bike experience helped Evans on the corners in the Tour de France.

“Cadel has an extraordinary ability to handle a bike around corners on descents where he makes up a lot of time, he is also a great climber,” van Hoof said.

Renowned coach Dave Sanders, who works at the Victorian Institute of Sport, helped convince Evans to switch from mountain biking to road racing in 2001.

Sanders has no doubt Evans can become a multiple tour winner.

“There is longevity if you’re looking after yourself, which Cadel does, he does everything right,” Sanders told AAP.

van Hoof is originally from Holland and moved with his family to Australia at the age of six in 1968 but returned to Europe in his early 20s to cycle.

“I marvel at the changes in cycling in Europe in the past 25 years,” he said.

“At that time, it cost you money to be part of a team, now most riders don’t have to work at all.

“I can remember visiting a small flat not far from Brussels where six Australian cyclists were living off scraps, it was just awful, they couldn’t afford heating,” he said.

“Riders have the highest of respect in the area I came from in Holland and across the border into the Flemish area of Belgium, motorists treat riders like God.”

van Hoof finished in the top 30 out of fields of 150 in the Tour de Belgium and Tour de Luxembourg in 1986 and after one race in Belgium was approached to race the winter season on the velodrome.

He said if he returned the following season, he was a chance to make a Tour de France team.

“I came back to Australia and raced another half season,” he said.

van Hoof described himself as a domestic in his tour team.

“I was a workhorse, riding in front of the leader to create a draft for the riders behind just as Cadel’s team mates did in the past three weeks. Riders in the draft save 30 per cent energy.”

van Hoof said some Warwick riders were keen to ride in Europe.

His own daughter Elsie, a current state road champion, is aiming one day to ride in the Tour de France for women, an event which receives a lot less publicity than the men’s equivalent but is just as tough.

Elsie, 12, said he would love to do the tour one day.

“It is a long way away yet, I have always wanted Cadel to win, it is amazing,” Elsie said.

“I said to myself I want to pedal in Cadel’s footsteps. My goal next year is to make a state team and compete in the road nationals.”

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