Battler makes way for next brigade
CADEL Evans has catapulted Australia into world headlines with his historic win in this year's Tour de France.
The 34-year-old's victory will generate long-term benefits for cycling in this country, but what can be immediately drawn from it?
Is it just an isolated individual performance from an extraordinary athlete, who happens to be Australian?
Is Evans the spearhead of an emerging pack of world-class Australian road cyclists?
Or will Australia have to wait for its next generation of riders before seeing the flow-on from Evans' achievement?.
Dual FKG Tour of Toowoomba winner Patrick Shaw believes there is a ‘yes' case for each scenario.
Shaw underlined his Australian road cycling credentials with a second win in last month's gruelling Toowoomba tour which now forms part of the National Road Series (NRS).
The 2010 NRS champion is now preparing with his Genesys team for this week's Tour of Gippsland in Victoria.
Shaw, 25, said the number of steps between Australian road racing and the Tour de France have reduced significantly as he continues working towards his own career move overseas.
“It used to be about a million steps away and almost impossible for Australians to be a force in the Tour de France,” Shaw said.
“Technically we are only one step away from making it now, but realistically it is two.
“Australian riders have got to get to the pro-level next as part of the progression.
“But we have the athletes and they are getting closer all the time.
“A rider like Leigh Howard can't be far away from the Tour de France.
“Michael Matthews is another great talent and to be truthful, we maybe have four or five guys capable of going to the next level.”
Shaw said Australia's next generation of cyclists will flourish under increasing cycling media coverage and events like the Tour of Toowoomba.
“What Cadel has done is definitely the biggest thing that has ever happened to Australian cycling,” Shaw said.
“Phil Anderson really got the ball rolling for us, but the next generation will be inspired by Cadel's win.
“When I was a kid, I looked up to Miguel Indurian (five times Spanish Tour de France winner), now kids have their own Australian idol in Cadel.
“The media coverage of cycling in Australia now is unparalleled.
“People can turn on SBS television and see events like the Tour of Toowoomba which is a great step forward for our sport.
“In my opinion, the Toowoomba Tour is the best race in Australia.
“It will take time for it to be officially recognised at that level, but I predict it will become Australia's biggest NRS event within five years.
“It's a great tour to help develop our future international riders.”