Australian Alex Evans (Mobius-Bridgelane) has been making a name for himself at home, finishing second to Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) on the Queen stage of the Herald Sun Tour and eventually placing eighth overall in his first-ever UCI race.
With his team Mobius-Bridgelane currently competing in the US at the Tour of the Gila this week, the Joe Martin Stage Race last week and the Redlands Bicycle Classic to come, the 21-year-old from Victoria is continuing to impress.
Evans finished third on the opening stage to Mogollon, which finishes with an 11km climb. Evans came in behind stage winner Oscar Sanchez (Canel's Specialized) and 2015 Tour of the Gila winner Rob Britton (Rally Cycling). Evans' third-place finish was all the more impressive because he started the second, more difficult part of the climb after White Horse Mesa in poor position after slipping backing the crosswinds
"They went pretty hard between the first climb and the second climb in the crosswind, so I went into it about 15th or so I think, so I had to bridge, which wasn't ideal, but it worked out," Evans told Cyclingnews at the top of the climb.
It was Rally Cycling's Adam de Vos who was doing the damage on the mesa between the climbs, hitting the front hard for team leader Britton and blowing the field into five or six groups before the hit the second half of the ascent. Evans went deep into the red to maintain contact with the leaders, and he had to regroup once the climbing started again in earnest.
"I got into a bit of a rhythm finally on the climb," he said.
Evans' rhythm saw him fly past rider after rider until only Sanchez and Britton were ahead of him. Sanchez attacked in the final kilometres, distancing Britton by 11 seconds at the finish. Evans crossed the line 58 seconds later, finishing ahead of UnitedHealthcare's Gavin Mannion, who had been with Sanchez and Britton on the upper slopes near Mogollon.
It was a solid result against difficult competition that solidified his claim to being a top climber.
"I didn't know quite how I was going to go with the altitude doing full-gas efforts, but it didn't turn out too bad," he said. "I'm happy with how I'm going."
Evans, who has done just four races so far this season, may have looked every bit the sturdy bike racer as he shared the stage podium with Britton and Sanchez, collecting the jersey of best young rider for his troubles, but his hairy legs betrayed his relative newness to the sport. Asked if he was tyring buck convention, start a new trend or just mimic the hairly legs world champion Peter Sagan showed up with at the Tour Down Under, Evans demurred.
"I just haven't shaved my legs," he said. "It's nothing at all really."
So will he put razor to his legs now that he's gracing podiums in UCI races?
"We'll see how I'm going," he replied.
Evans has three more chances to excel this week in New Mexico, with the hilly out-and-back time trial on Friday, the downtown Silver City criterium on Saturday and the climbing Gila Monster stage on the final day.
Evans slipped from third to fourth on Thursday after UnitedHealthcare's Janier Acevdeo, who started the stage 2:21 down on Sanchez, infiltrated a breakaway that stuck to the line and gained 1:31 on the bunch. But Evans clearly brought his climbing legs to the Tour of the Gila and will be pressing to regain his podium spot by the end of racing on Sunday.
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