Eight years after taking the pink jersey in the Dolomites, Cadel Evans is again at the top of the general classification in the Giro d'Italia, but it's a totally different story this time. The 33-year-old Australian took the lead in an unexpected way in the Netherlands after race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and his BMC teammate Brent Bookwalter, who both preceded Evans in the opening time trial, were involved in a crash prior to reaching the stage two finish in Utrecht.
"Today was one of the most ridiculously dangerous stages I've seen in my career," said Evans after the finish. "It's not because of the course. I don't know why everybody is so nervous this year. Here in Holland you take a Grand Tour group of riders and you put them on these roads that are more for Classics riders.
"I've seen many riders very nervous today, too nervous. When it's dangerous like this, experience counts but also luck."
Evans was exposed to the similar roads in September last year when the Vuelta a España started in the Dutch town of Assen. He's prepared for similar racing conditions when the Tour de France will start in Rotterdam on July 3 this year.
When Evans earned the maglia rosa in 2002, in a Giro d'Italia which also started in the Netherlands at Groningen, the Australian was beginning his career on the road and worked as a domestique for Stefano Garzelli, who would eventually be excluded for doping. Evans made the mistake of not eating enough for the battle in the Dolomites during his day in the maglia rosa and suffered a hunger knock on the Passo Coe in stage 17. He reached the finish in Folgaria like a zombie, 17 minutes after stage winner Pavel Tonkov. As he crossed the line, he didn't even see his soigneur from Mapei and kept pedalling in a daze.
"Since 2002, I've kept the same coach, Aldo Sassi, and the same people I work closely with," Evans said. "After I changed teams this year, everything is well balanced between my personal ambitions and the enthusiasm of the team."
As in 2002, Evans might lose the pink jersey the day after taking it but the situation is much different this time around. "It was near the end of the Giro and it's close to the start this time," he said. "We will not look at keeping the jersey at any cost tomorrow. Farrar is only one second behind me. I'm not going to look for bonus seconds on the road tomorrow against him. But I'll drop him off on the Zoncolan if he's still there!"
Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), who beat Evans by 58 seconds in the 2008 Tour de France, occupies 74th position on GC, 57 seconds down after being caught in a crash. "We count by seconds today but it's gonna be by minutes in the end of the Giro," Evans said.
Questioned about Sastre having chosen to race for eight days only prior to the Giro, the Australian told reporters, "With stages like this, you need to be in good form from the start. I'm a rider who lost the Tour de France by 23 seconds [in 2007 to Alberto Contador]. I definitely prefer to have some advantage now than the opposite."