One of the very few Australians recognisable by their first name (no, it’s not you Eddie, Elle or Kylie), Cadel Evans has the honour of being the only Australian to have ever won the Tour de France (he came second in the Tour in 2007, 2008, both by less than 60 seconds, finally winning the race in 2011). For an Aussie on the world stage, it doesn’t get much bigger than that… come on Ricciardo, get that Renault firing!
Last week’s David Parkin Oration for Sport and Social Change at Deakin Edge in Federation Square brought me face to face with Cadel, and reignited one of my early childhood passions – cycling. I’m not a weekend warrior or part of the lycra set, but I love the sport of cycling.
Cadel was on the couch with sports broadcaster, Gerard Whateley, and talked about just how far a bike has taken him. It was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with a cycling great, but what I heard for just on an hour was an unbelievably humble, focussed and self-driven individual.
If you’re looking for the gold, here are my quick takeaways from Cadel’s chat:
- Don’t ever doubt yourself
- Don’t underestimate the power of motivation and consistency
- Learn to stay calm and absorb enormous pressure in races and competition
Forget eat/sleep/rave/repeat. Cadel’s teenage routine was solely: ride/school/eat/sleep. People told him he’d never be a cycling champ. No Aussie had ever won the Tour, but he was out to prove them wrong. It’s no surprise that Cadel is very single-minded; it took an incredibly focussed individual to achieve what many others (including himself) had had within their grasp numerous times, retaining the elusive yellow jersey.
Cadel says hard work opens up other opportunities and sport can be an awesome agent for change. Growing up near Katherine NT in the small Aboriginal community of Barunga made him realise what a woeful job Australia has done with addressing the treatment of its indigenous people. Sport has a privileged position to influence attitudes about social issues, such as racism, eating disorders, alcohol, violence towards women, gender equality and homophobia. It can also fall prey to its own issues.
When cycling was clouded by performance enhancing drug-taking, Cadel praised those individuals and organisations that provided him with a good moral compass: his mum (Helen Cox), his coaches, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), his teams and team mates. I think Italy holds a special place in his heart, probably due to Prof. Aldo Sassi – his Italian coach and mentor.
Cadel would love to see more Aussie school children ride their bikes to school. I’d like to see more people back themselves too. Don’t underestimate your ability to motivate yourself – strive for consistency.
Deakin University’s annual David Parkin Oration is always a great opportunity to hear from inspiring people in sport. Who has inspired you recently through learning or achievement in your world @work?