The Coffee Ride #135, with Reece Homfray


Cadel Evans during stage one of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike race. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

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CADEL EVANS GOES BACK TO HIS FIRST TRUE LOVE

SIX years after winning the Tour de France Cadel Evans has come out of retirement, reunited with his right-hand man George Hincapie and gone back to his first true love — the mountain bike.

The first Australian to win the yellow jersey and his trusted lieutenant from 2011 are three days into Cape Epic — an eight-day mountain bike race in South Africa far from the creature comforts they were used to as road professionals.

Cape Epic is so tough it is rated as “hors categorie” — beyond classification — by the UCI and riders sleep each night in a campervan before getting back on their bike.

Evans, 40, and Hincapie, 43, are riding for the BMC Absa Racing Team in the masters category, where Evans is trading blows with an old sparring partner — Bart Brentjens, who beat him for gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Hincapie was BMC’s road captain and crucial domestique for Evans when he triumphed in the Tour de France in 2011 and Evans joked he was now able to return the favour.

“I did today because he went hunger flat with 10km to go, I rode the whole way on the front,” Evans told News Corp after Stage 1.

“I fixed his puncture and rode all the way to the finish.

“But to be honest in this kind of race and conditions there’s no one I’d rather do the event with because we’ve been through thick and thin together, good and bad, and real high-pressure racing.

“We have dealt with high expectations and pressures, so to come here and push each other to the limit even if we’re not nearly as fit as we used to be, to reunite in that regard, that alone makes it a guaranteed enjoyable experience.”

After the 26km opening prologue and 101km Stage 1, Evans and Hincapie were sitting third overall, one spot behind Brentjens.

“I’m all right, a little bit tired actually,” Evans said from his ice bath.

Cadel Evans during stage one of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike race. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Cadel Evans during stage one of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike race. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICSSource:Supplied

“I’m doing a stage race, I forgot it makes you tired and it hurts your legs when you ride uphill.

“George tore the sidewall out of his tyre today which took a while to repair unfortunately so we lost a fair bit of time on the overall but it’s a long race so anything can happen.

“We were third on GC behind the 1996 Olympic champion so we were like ‘hmmm, we might just stay concentrating for a couple of days at least’.”

The mountain bike is what launched Evans’ cycling career and took him to world cup victory and Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney.

Last year he had knee surgery in a bid to return to the mountain bike and pencilled in the goal of racing Cape Epic for the first time.

“It’s (mountain biking) what brought me into the sport and it’s funny people coming into the sport now, another generation of cycling fans, they say ‘do you ever mountain bike?’ and I say ‘oh yeah a fair bit’,” Evans said.

“But of course the sport has changed a lot and this race is unlike any other because it’s really unique conditions, harsh terrain, super rough and rocky, it’s pretty extreme but it’s an amazing event and an adventure in the sense that you’re a fair way out there.

“As a retired rider coming back to racing it’s an event going into the unknown in terms of what can we do, what are we capable of, how hard is it going to be.

“I’ve tried to train a fair bit the last few months but of course like everyone who has a real job I don’t have as much time.

“But it seems as though I’m reasonably fit at this point and it’s still early days, we’ll do what we can while we’re in the running and enjoy it.

“Coming back to the mountain bike world, it’s my first time in South Africa and there is amazing terrain and countryside.”

WORKING CLASS MAN OFF TO WORLDS

Jordan Kerby ... back in the saddle. Picture: Darren England.

Jordan Kerby … back in the saddle. Picture: Darren England.Source:News Corp Australia

MONDAY morning, 6.30, and Jordan Kerby is back to work.

Less than 48 hours earlier he had become the individual pursuit national champion and booked his ticket to the world championships in Hong Kong.

And here he was before breakfast opening up The Pedaler — a bike shop in Brisbane from where he runs his coaching business, helping other people realise their goals.

For the first time in his career Kerby is combining training with fulltime work.

It wasn’t his intention, after his road career was cut short at Drapac last season, but it has worked out perfectly and he couldn’t be happier.

“I had a few long nights there last year where I was thinking ‘what am I going to do now?’” Kerby said of not being offered a WorldTour contract with Cannondale-Drapac.

“And about that time the Rio Olympics were on and I always loved the track, and I thought ‘maybe I can step up and have another crack’.

“So far I’ve ticked every personal box and the beauty of it is I can also be here at home with my girlfriend, train on the track and if I’m away it’s not for eight months.

“I’ve put a lot of hours into my coaching business and it’s going really well, so I’ve got the security of something to look forward to.

“I’m in an ideal scenario, I’m very relaxed — don’t get me wrong I train like a mad man — but I’m really stable now and if the track thing doesn’t work out which I’d really love it to, I’ll be OK.”

With a new velodrome built in Brisbane for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, it meant Kerby wouldn’t be training on an outdoor track, so motivation wasn’t hard to find.

But he had not raced properly on a velodrome since 2011 which was his first year out of juniors and 12 months after he was world champ in the team pursuit and points race.

“I was thinking ‘we should probably give this a good crack again and see what happens’, but I didn’t think I’d be going to the world championships that’s for sure,” Kerby said of his stunning rise back to the international stage.

“I was hoping to put my hand up for a trial over the next season or two to try to crack back into the program … so it’s a surprise.”

The 24-year-old lined up in the 4km individual pursuit where he faced superstar Cameron Meyer in the final.

“I did a 4:20 in training in January and thought ‘okay, I could be up for a medal’,” Kerby said.

“Against Cam we went out on a 4:19 schedule and Cam scared me, I thought ‘gee I must be on a bad one’.

“Then I got to the back end and really stepped on it and finished just in front of him, I rolled around and looked at the time board and saw 4:16 and thought ‘that’s pretty quick’, then realised ‘oh that’s Cam’s time’ and I’d done 4:15 which was unbelievable, I didn’t think I had that in me.

Jordan Kerby on his way to winning the individual pursuit national championship. Picture: Supplied.

Jordan Kerby on his way to winning the individual pursuit national championship. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

“It was a really good surprise.”

Kerby initially left the track to pursue his road goals and he got results. In 2013 he won the under-23 road race at nationals and the following year won the time trial.

He spent a year racing with a continental team in Denmark and joined Drapac where he rode the Tour Down Under and international races such as the USA Pro Challenge and Tour of California.

Kerby describes his time on the road as “a lot of ups and downs”.

“I loved it at Drapac, it was a great team and I got looked after really well and I got to race all over Asia and Europe,” he said.

“I didn’t make the cut (for WorldTour) which was sad but I also knew I didn’t have the season to make the cut, I was realistic and I’ve tried to remain that way my whole career.

“It’s pretty disappointing and depressing but at the same time I wasn’t performing in those particular races, and it can be due to a number of things — how you adjust to Europe, the racing, what’s going on at home.”

After taking stock of his career and realising racing was only one part of it, Kerby went and got his level one coaching accreditation and started work in The Pedaler Cyclery and Podiatry which has brought much-needed balance to his life.

“If I’m not at the track or out early riding then I’m in here,” he says of his new 9-5 job.

In an unexpected way, taking a step back from racing to focus on a job has in fact prolonged his career and reignited a passion he always knew was there but had to resurface.

Kerby will ride the individual pursuit only at the world championships next month but hopes to break into the team pursuit squad in the next 12 months. From there, the obvious goal is a home Commonwealth Games in Queensland next year.

“If I can crack into it — there’s nothing I’d love to do more than race in front of my girlfriend and parents and family and friends,” he said.

HAYMAN, O’GRADY ON PARIS-ROUBAIX

Matthew Hayman celebrates after finishing second at the Paris-Roubaix. Picture: Tim De Waele

Matthew Hayman celebrates after finishing second at the Paris-Roubaix. Picture: Tim De WaeleSource:Getty Images

THIS year marks 10 years since Stuart O’Grady became the first Australian to win Paris-Roubaix and one year since Mathew Hayman became the second.

With cycling’s spring classics now in full swing, both men have spoken to News Corp about their favourite memories from the biggest day of their careers.

The full Q & A will be published this weekend.

MATTHEWS OPENS UP

IN CASE you missed out interview with Michael Matthews earlier this week, the Australian star has spoken about his decision to leave Orica, wanting to win a classic and how Peter Sagan is psyching out the peloton.

“He uses his positioning to be able to get in everyone’s head and I think everyone needs to stop just focusing on him and focus on their own race,” Matthews said.

“That’s where they’ll probably also go better. I’ve found myself getting caught up in that a little bit too, focusing my race on his and I’ve lost my race because of that.

“I have a super strong team now to support me and I don’t need to ride off other riders.”

You can read the full interview HERE.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK …

The results don’t matter. It’s important to give the fans a bit of a show.

— Peter Sagan after animating Milan-San Remo with an attack on the Poggio climb before finishing second behind Michal Kwaitkowski.

What he’s (Sagan) doing, it’s a lot of a psychological battle for the rest of the riders in the peloton.

— Australian Michael Matthews on racing Peter Sagan.

This is living.

— Australian cycling journalist and author Rupert Guinness on day three of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race when he was up and on his bike by 3am.

Today gives me confidence that it can happen one day.

Caleb Ewan after finishing 10th in Milan-San Remo on debut on the weekend.

TWEET, TWEET

— Michal Kwiatkowski salutes Peter Sagan after their thrilling battle in Milan-San Remo on the weekend.

Originally published as The Coffee Ride #135, with Reece Homfray