Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Giro del Trentino after he and his BMC team controlled his rivals on the final mountain finish on the hairpins of Monte Bondone overlooking Trento. It was Evan's first stage race victory since the 2012 Criterium International.
Evans finished fifth on the final stage, 41 seconds behind winner Mikel Landa (Astana) but was ahead of his nearest rivals in the surge to the line. The final classification showed he beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) by 50 seconds, with Poland's Przemyslav Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) third overall at 1:01.
Evans followed Vincenzo Nibali in the list of Trentino winners and was immediately asked if he felt he could also go on to win the Giro d'Italia as Nibali did in 2013.
"I hope to maintain that tradition," he said after having a little laugh at the idea.
"In the Giro there are more days of racing, more uphill days and a stronger field, I'll have to be better to win the Giro. But I've got margin to improve and so I'll work towards that."
Pushed further to talk about the Giro d'Italia, Evans named Joaquim Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana as his big rivals for the Corsa Rosa.
He was reminded that his contract with BMC ends this year but he put off any talk on the matter and the future of his career, at age 37, until after the Giro d'Italia. He was just happy to be back to his best in time for the start of the Giro in Belfast on May 9.
"My contract is about to run out but I'm not," he joked. "Time will tell regarding my contract."
"Above all in 2014 I wanted to return to my normal level. Since 2012 I've had an up and down period with the virus I had in 2012 and which I paid for in 2013. Things are returning back to normal and it's satisfying to get results after doing the work. It hasn't been satisfying to do work and get a quarter of the results."
Controlling his rivals
Evans won the opening team time trial with five of his BMC teammates who will also ride the Giro d'Italia. He was well placed on the first mountain finish on Tuesday and then took control of the leader's pink jersey on the steep finish above Roncone.
Friday's final stage and the 19km climb on Monte Bondone was all about controlling his rivals and defending the jersey.
"I had to watch Pozzovivo most of all because he was second overall and was a threat. I had 45 seconds which was pretty good and he probably had a hope of doing well, but it didn’t happen," Evans explained.
"Astana did a good job on the climb and had a numerical advantage, but it all came down to the legs you had and so I was able to control things. We've already won two stages and so when Landa went away, it was not up to us to go after him. I stayed calm and kept things under control. If we'd had the opportunity to win another stage, we'd have tried but we raced with overall victory as the priority."
A handful of riders headed to the airport after the Giro del Trentino to fly to Belgium for Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
With the form he has shown in Italy, Evans could no doubt be a contender in the Ardennes hills or even a vital help for BMC team leader Philippe Gilbert. However Evans again laughed at the idea of him riding Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He plans to train in the mountains for a few days with teammate Steve Morabito, then spend a final few days at home before traveling to Belfast.
"We've got a good team there and after the Amstel Gold Race, I think Phil's got good form and he's got a good team around him," he said.
"Phil's the specialist for those races and so I'll work towards my big goal of the season: the Giro d'Italia."