The Tour de France champion narrowly misses the Turkey Trot podium

Runners will be forgiven if they missed it.

Nestled among those who wear felt turkey hats, the guy dressed up as a bottle of wine (I see you, Matt Villano, Democratic press contributor), 47 dogs, a goat and two cats who lined up for leading the very festive Turkey Trot in Healdsburg last week was a quadruple Olympian and Tour de France champion.

Cadel Evans, winner of the yellow jersey in 2011, traded in a road bike for running shoes and joined the hordes of runners who ran the Healdsburg race on Thanksgiving Day.

It turns out that the guy who is really good at riding a bike can run at top speed too. He finished sixth with an impressive time of 15:41.

Aside from the fact that there were a number of fast people up front, the finish times tend to be neither here nor there for an event like the Turkey Trot, which has been held for years to support the Drew Esquivel Memorial Scholarship.

And in the aftermath of the massive and frightening upheaval caused by a global pandemic, seeing more than 2,000 people come together to run in funny felt hats seems like a huge victory.

But back to the superstar among us.

“We are running nerds”

Brand said Evans, who started his career as a mountain bike world champion, competed in four Olympics and won road cycling’s biggest event before retiring from professional cycling in 2015, is appeared in the store several times over the years.

The connection with Sonoma County makes sense.

He spent years (and the year he won the Tour) riding for BMC, a cycling team with local roots via Gavin Chilcott, a Santa Rosan who for years was the COO of the ‘team. Evans has probably trained here once or twice.

Back in the days when the Tour of California passed through Sonoma County every year, it was not uncommon to see BMC riders riding in town or on our country roads.

Yet the first time Evans walked into the store a long time ago, Brand, a runner not necessarily a cyclist, didn’t recognize him.

But he recognized his physical form.

“When we first opened the door, he walked in, with a big accent, said, ‘My doctor told me I need zero drop shoes,’” Brand recalls of their first meeting around. six years.

Evans bought a pair of shoes that day. He loved them so much that he came the next day to grab another pair and, as Brand recalls, casually remarked that he took the first pair on a three-hour trail around Lake Sonoma.

“So the guy can shoot that ass,” Brand remembers, still having no idea who he was.

The brand can laugh about it now.

“We’re running nerds. We had no idea who was a winner of the Tour de France, ”he said.

‘Yeah, I’m in it’

Fast forward to last week. Evans was back in town and Brand now knows who this super-fit, Australian-accented guy is when he walks into the store.

So Brand let Evans know that a little trot was scheduled for Thursday morning. It’s a 5K with a few thousand friends and a great way to start the vacation. Could Evans want to try?

“He’s a confident guy,” Brand said. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’m in it.'”

Confident and competitive.

It took about six minutes to get over 2,000 runners to pass under the ball arch and through the downtown start line. Somewhere in that sea was one of the 65 guys who have won the Tour de France in the past 120 years.

That means a quadruple Olympian and Tour de France winner had to dodge and weave a fair number of trotters, dogs and maybe a goat, to find room to stretch his legs and leave, Brand said.

And with all those people he had to pass to move on to leaders, the cat was out of the bag quickly enough that a superstar was among them.

“We have amazing cyclists,” Brand said. “They knew straight away.

“They want to have the chance to celebrate in a group”

Whether people were drawn to support the purse in honor of Healdsburg High alum Drew Esquivel, or to launch a preemptive attack on holiday gluttony, the trotting has become a staple for many locals.

Esquivel, was an outstanding wrestler for the Healdsburg Hounds, as well as an Eagle Scout, who traveled to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013 to study computer science with a full scholarship offered by the James Family Foundation. . He was killed by a drunk driver in New York City in the summer of 2016.

The motto “Live Like Drew” has been adopted by a number of events that raise funds for the stock market.

So the mood was celebratory on Thursday, but with caution, Brand said.

“People feel more comfortable outside. They want to have the chance to celebrate as a group, ”he said. “It feels good to be a community again collectively. I think that’s what it is.

Brand said Thursday’s shopping list was the biggest ever, showing a need to do something as a group, a group that included more than 2,000 humans, 47 dogs, two cats and a group. goat and a Tour de France champion.

You can contact columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or [email protected] On Twitter @benefield.


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