Cadel Evans (BMC) has waited a long time to climb on the top step of the podium – his last stage win was at the Criterium du Dauphine in June of 2012. But on Saturday at the Tour of Alberta he had the patience and experience to wait for the perfect moment to sprint past Argos-Shimano's Simon Geschke to win stage four of the Canadian race.
The BMC leader and 2011 Tour de France winner has had a difficult season but bounced back with a morale-boosting win as he focuses on the end of season. He is targeting the two Canadian WorldTour races next weekend, he has his eye on Il Lombardia and is expected to be one of the team leaders of the Australian team at the world championships. Evans won the world title in 2009 in Mendrisio.
Evans found himself in a select group of five late in the race after having been off the front since kilometer 18 of the 170km stage in southern Alberta.
When Geschke attacked with Belkin's Tom Jelte Slagter from a larger breakaway group about halfway through the day, Evans waited patiently for a counter attack by Canadian National Team rider Antoine Duchesne before bridging to the leaders with the young Canadian and fellow Australian Ben Day (UnitedHealthcare).
When Day attacked the leaders with about two kilometres remaining and opened up a gap on the remaining four chasers, Evans patiently waited for Geschke to commit to chasing Day down. When Geschke caught Day 100 meters from the line, Evans timed his jump perfectly to take his first win in more than a year.
There had been a lot of tough days since Evans had snagged victory, but he said he hasn't been counting.
“I'm not counting the days. I try not to think about them actually. I've had quite a few second places in stages of the Giro and so on this year, and race wins are a thing in our profession, of course, but I don't get too overly focused on it because it upsets your psychology a bit,” he said.
Evans explained that victory was a bonus as he prepares for next week's WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal.
“First of all, from my part of things, my objective for this part of the year is of course being good for the WorldTour races at the end of the year,” he said. “No disrespect to this race, but that's the priority of my profession.”
To that end, Evans has been putting in extra kilometers every day of the race, hoping to hit top form for the Canadian races and the rest of the month.
Despite having some of the longest, straightest roads that Evans said he has ever seen – and the subsequent “fast” pace of the stages – the Tour of Alberta has been a relaxing form-builder for the 36-year-old veteran of 16 Grand Tours.
“For us and for me who has ridden the Tour, the Giro, the Classics and all these races, it's kind of nice to be able to sit in the group and only be 50km/h in the crosswinds as opposed to 65,” he said. “So it's nice to be able to rest and not be completely exhausted each evening when you get home after the stage. You can enjoy the racing a little bit more,” he explained.
Evans said he believes his form has been improving with his added workload throughout the week, but he's not sure if his timing for peak form will be as spot on as the timing he used to win stage four on Saturday.
“Seeing where Sagan is at the moment and looking toward the races at the end of the year, I'm improving,” he said. “Whether I'll get there on time… I'm doing everything I can, and I've been working pretty hard the past few weeks, and of course, here as well. But yeah, my form is improving, and I think I'll have a better idea after the Quebec and Montreal races.”
Evans is also hoping his appearance at the inaugural Tour of Alberta will improve the race's chances of continuing or even growing into an annual event.
“I'm also here to support a new race,” he said. “It worked well for me for training, but I was also at the inaugural Tour of California, the inaugural [USA Pro Challenge], the inaugural Tour Down Under. So where I can help out with the expansion of cycling around the world, I hope I can help in my own little way.”