Having ridden away from Richie Porte (Sky) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) on the Corkscrew climb during Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, today it was Cadel Evans (BMC) who was distanced by his rivals on the climb to Willunga Hill. Evans conceded his overall lead to Gerrans, losing eight seconds, and enters the final stage of the Tour Down Under one second off the lead with ambitions to take back the lead, stating post-race, "don't underestimate the competitive fire."
When the race turned onto the lower slopes of Willunga for the second time, Evans was well placed with two teammates to call upon. Orica-GreenEdge had put the hammer down on the descent from Willunga which left Gerrans with a numerical advantage over Evans who praised the efforts of the Australian WorldTour team.
"Orica-GreenEdge I would have to say rode fantastically. After they put pressure on after the KOM sprint on the first time up Willunga, it caught some of us on the back foot and that cost me at the start where I had to make moves," Evans said.
Despite losing his lead, Evans was adamant he will fight until the very end of the race. "When you have an opportunity to win a big race you want to win it."
"This was not just an opportunity to race in Australia, but to win a race ... while I can be competitive I don't have that many opportunities to win here. When it is possible to win and you don't it is a little disappointing."
Evans explained that today's stage was always going to be testing and he was beaten by the better rider on the day but has been buoyed by his form as he builds for the Giro d'Italia in May.
"I anticipated that the lead into Willunga was going to be very important and the fact that the race previous to that was much more difficult and suited to me and the whole team. Sometimes you just get beaten by a better rider and a better team.
"I am riding as well as I had hoped, maybe even better and I think my performances have demonstrated that. Certainly I think I am riding as well as I hoped [and] the performance I think have demonstrated [that]."
GreenEdge will enter the final stage knowing they can defend a slender lead having successfully done so in 2012 when Alejandro Valverde finished with the same time as Gerrans. While GreenEdge will be watching Evans, there is the possibility Diego Ulissi could take advantage of the situation to move up on gc.
"The race isn't over. That is true. But like I said we are going against a team that I'd designed specifically for this race. We don't have a pure sprinter here."
"It may come down to immediate seconds and the difference between first and second, maybe even third on GC could come down to some seconds. If you don't come he with a lead out team or a sprinters team, that becomes difficult to achieve."