Inspired, perhaps, by a return to the mountain that formed the keystone of his 2011 Tour de France triumph, Cadel Evans (BMC) broke even with his fellow general classification contenders on the Col de Galibier on stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia to remain second overall.
Evans had conceded ground on the Saturday’s summit at Jafferau and saw his deficit to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) extended to 1:26, but in the finale on the Galibier, he was able to resist the Sicilian’s forcing and finished the stage just behind him in 8th place.
“It was very cold again today but at least it wasn’t as cold as yesterday and there wasn’t any snow at the bottom of the Galibier,” Evans said afterwards, as he awaited doping control. “It went quite well and I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the best riders here. I defended myself well and I rode very well so I’m still confident about my Giro and the week to come. “
As the Giro heads into its second rest day in Valloire on Monday, Evans is still within touching distance of Nibali, and although the maglia rosa has shown few signs of weakness thus far, Evans noted that the effects of the extreme conditions thus far could make themselves felt in the coming week. The climb to Sestriere was cut from Saturday’s stage due to the snow, while stage 15 ultimately finished four kilometres shy of the summit of the Galibier, at the Marco Pantani monument.
“The weather conditions are changing quicker than we can change our clothes so it’s difficult to be prepared,” Evans said, warning that “the third week of the Giro comes after two weeks that were probably harder than expected.”
Evans started the Giro ranked among the second cadre of favourites, but following the abandons of Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), the veteran finds himself in the position of Nibali’s direct rival for final overall victory.
“The first week was good, a little bit above expectations but the second week was slightly below expectations,” Evans said. “Now we’re in second but with quite a big time gap to make up. But it can all turn around in a tough three-week race like this one.”
Since the start in Naples, Evans has always fallen short of clearly stating his Giro ambitions, preferring to speak vaguely of a possible podium finish in Brescia. His decision to race the Giro was a late one, and he insisted that he had come to Italy with the Tour de France also very much in mind, but his aspirations much surely have been revised upwards in the intervening two weeks.
“I came to the Giro aiming to get back to my best and I think I’m on my way there but of course my goal whenever I race is to get the best out of myself and I’m not saying it’s not within my capabilities to win this Giro,” Evans said.
Asked what to outline his hopes for the final week, Evans paused to consider his answer. “My expectations are always very high,” he said.