BMC leader will be tested in days to come
Unlike the other pre-race favourites for the Giro d’Italia crown current race leader Cadel Evans hasn't had any real bad luck to hinder his racing. His team's opening time trial was similar to main rivals Movistar, way better than Katusha's struggles and compared to Garmin's memories of Ireland it was a relatively stress free start. That's as much to do with Evans’ character and abilities to stay near the front of any group when he's involved in the fight for the win as it is good fortune.
It won't last though because there a couple of things you learn when you ride a Grand Tour: one is that you will have a bad moment and another is that you are more likely than not to fall off at least once. My personal best was six crashes at the '88 Vuelta, though given the amount of surgical dressings and problems in finding a sleeping position by the time I reached Madrid I didn't think of it as much of an achievement at the time. Of those six times I tasted Spanish soil, five of them were due to circumstances beyond my control, unlike the crash I had warming up for the TT which was kind of my fault. But all other times someone else messed up. Cursing and recriminations were involved but that was the end of it as no-one felt abused or taken advantage of.
And that brings me to the Montecassino pile-up and the decision taken by BMC not to wait for those caught behind the crash. OK I get the excuse that it was the finale and the race was on but there's still the hint that it was a bit of a crap thing to profit from.
More importantly it signals to the other teams the moral level at which this Giro will be conducted and that might just be Cadel Evans undoing. One hint of a problem, one mechanical, one puncture, one natural break taken and it could well be the signal for all hell to be let loose on BMC and the Australian. Race leadership is stressful enough without reinforcing the paranoia that the other teams are all against you. Of course they are against you it's a competition I hear you say but you still need some friends to get through any dodgy moments. The stage six affair probably removed any goodwill in that department hence Androni's refusal to consider the pink jersey's request for a moment's clemency when Steve Morabito hit the deck on the way to Savona.
Evans has already been sailing close to the wind in a couple of the big crashes and staying right at the front once inside the final three kms of the flatter stages is certainly pushing his luck.
Once the 40km TT is out of the way the GC situation will be a lot clearer and Cadel Evans will know how much advantage he has to play with going into the mountains because it's more than likely the better climbers will gang up on BMC and put the race leader under a lot of pressure as soon as they can. Qunitana and Pozzovivo know they are way more explosive than Evans, as is Uran, and their respective teams aren't going to bail out BMC if they get into trouble. Worse still for Evans will be if he's left to his own devices on any of the mountain top finishes because everywhere else the Australian is good. Descending, hot, cold, rain or shine he's got all those covered but uphill he's vulnerable.
Evans may speak Italian and he certainly isn't unpopular amongst the tifosi but no doubt they would rather see Pozzovivo win so along with the pressure of controlling the race going into last week he's also going to have to deal with the few partisan fans who won't be favourable to his cause. It's no fun when people shout abuse or throw crap on you, it might not affect you too much if you are still strong but when suffering it's a different story. And it's always slightly scary.
There's plenty still to go wrong in this Giro and so far Cadel Evans hasn't had too many scares or had any sticky moments but as Stephen Roche used to say “ it's not how good you are on your good days but how good you are on your bad ones that matters."
- Robert Millar
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey. Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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