MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tour de France winner Cadel Evans may not have made up his mind about whether to wrap up his professional career but Australian cycling is already wrestling with the problem of how to replace him.
The 37-year-old, Australia's first Tour de France winner, is is off-contract with BMC Racing at the end of the season and is expected to make an announcement on his future next week, before he bids to win a second world title in Spain.
Media have speculated Evans will continue until an official farewell race at next year's Tour Down Under and then compete in the inaugural Great Ocean Road race near Melbourne, a one-day event named in his honor along a course that travels through his home town Barwon Heads.
Evans's 2011 triumph in France raised the profile of the sport Down Under and Malcolm Speed, president-elect of governing body Cycling Australia, said his retirement would be felt by the country's cycling community.
"I think there will be an impact obviously when Cadel retires but I think he will remain an icon for cyclists," Speed told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"There are other emerging champions coming through and hopefully we replicate Cadel's success with a winner of one of the major events over the next couple of years.
"Cadel's been great for Australian cycling but at some stage he will move on. The challenge we face is to replace him."
Evans competed in the recently completed Tour of Spain, finishing more than two hours off the pace of winner Alberto Contador.
Gerry Ryan, owner of pro cycling outfit Orica-Greenedge and outgoing president of Cycling Australia, said he had sounded out the rider on his future plans, without elaborating.
"We’ve spoken to Cadel," Ryan said. "One thing, when he does retire, he wants to stay involved (in cycling). We'll wait and see."
Australia had to wait more than 100 years to fete a Tour de France winner but can reasonably hope for a new men's world champion in less than two weeks.
Orica-Greenedge rider Simon Gerrans has been in impressive form in the lead up, winning back-to-back grands prix in Canada.
"I watched a race in Canada last Thursday and I think the winner of that race could wear the rainbow jersey next Sunday week," Ryan said of the 34-year-old Gerrans.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney