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Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
BMC captain calls "ridiculous" stage a day of survival
Although the Australian remains in the hunt for a podium place – indeed, he remains in third place on general classification – he slipped further away from the overall lead, which is now in the possession of Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Evans was part of a maglia rosa group that was distanced by Quintana on the descent of the Stelvio after many of the riders were led to believe that the race had been temporarily neutralised, and he finished the stage in 10th place, 4:48 down on the Colombian.
On the final haul to Val Martello, however, Evans was also dropped by the rest of his direct rivals in the general classification. With a shade over six kilometres to go, just as Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) looked to breathe urgency into the chase, Evans slid out the back of the chasing group with the worst of his labours still lying on the mountainside above him.
The final 1,800 metres before the summit contained no fewer than eight hairpin bends, and that serpent-like coil proved a particular ordeal for Evans. He conceded 1:16 to Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), 1:08 to Fabio Aru (Astana), 40 seconds to Majka and 37 seconds to Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
"In the final, I started cramping," Evans said. "I was limping on one leg all the way home. It is a pity because normally I am reasonably good in these extreme conditions."
Snow and frigid temperatures meant that the route of the stage was not fully confirmed until 8.30am on Tuesday morning, and Evans struggled to come to terms with the conditions on the day’s first climb, the Gavia. "The first climb, I was over-dressed and on the first descent, I couldn’t see through the snow," Evans said. "There was too much snow on my lenses and I could hardly see the corners."
Although he had few problems in coping with Movistar’s pace-setting on the way up the Stelvio, he began to suffer on the long, cold descent that followed, where Quintana eventually slipped away in the company of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
"I started getting cramps on the descent of the Stelvio," Evans said. "It seems ridiculous today – it was below zero and I was dehydrated. But we were either going uphill or downhill, so the opportunities to drink were limited.
"With the TV motorbikes and things you can hardly pass down there. I stopped to put some jackets on knowing I’d get cold, and then I was behind a TV motorbike. Then on the last climb with the cramps, it wasn’t what I expected. It was really a day of conservation and survival."
The trickle of time Evans lost on the maglia rosa in recent stages now seems to have become a steady flow, and he has also slipped from second to third overall, with Pierre Rolland now just five seconds behind him. In spite of his recent travails, however, Evans looked to sound an optimistic note for the remainder of what is proving to be – even by the Giro’s remarkable standards – the most unpredictable of races.
"I think we’ve seen it the last couple of days, that anything and everything has happened in this Giro," Evans said. "And anything and everything can still happen in this Giro."