The thought of Cadel Evans losing over eight minutes to Chris Froome in a Tour de France time trial looked unimaginable two weeks ago - let alone two years ago - but that is what happened on stage 17 after the Australian deliberately lost time.
The 32 kilometre test from Embrun to Chorges saw the 2011 Tour winner coast home in a time of 59:37 with a number of sprinters beating him.
Evans’ ride comes after a frustrating opening two weeks for the Australian and his BMC team with all GC aspirations slipping away in the Pyrenees and then disappearing into the abyss on the moonlike slopes of Ventoux. It has left Evans needing to adapt to a new role of stage hunter in the Alps as the team look to rescue their race.
"If we’re going to have any chance of doing something in the stages ahead, I’m going to have to be a bit more recovered and back off today and see if there’s an opportunity tomorrow. If not, take it easy again in hope of coming around for one of the stages. It will be tricky but we’ll try," Evans told the press as he warmed down after his time trial.
"Tomorrow to have a chance you have to be in a pretty good breakaway early on and be going away early and getting a lot of time which would be unusual to enter into, judging on past experiences in breakaways at the Tour, what few I’ve had."
Evans chances of slipping into an early break on the road to Alpe d’Huez depend on the tactics of others. Despite soft pedalling around the time trial today he still sits inside the top twenty, in 18th place, in fact. Those around him in GC may well try and defend their positions, while the true battle for yellow may be the biggest element in any break surviving.
"It depends on the guys in the first twenty and how much importance they place on keeping their place on GC," Evans confirmed.
Evans came into the Tour with renewed confidence after a solid third place in the Giro d’Italia. It marked an improvement after illness and injury disturbed both his 2012 season and the start of this year. However, as the Tour has wound through Corsica, the Pyrenees and now the Alps Evans has looked short of top level form, and has been unable to compete when Froome and Contador open the afterburners.
"It would appear at this point that the Giro took a lot more out of me than we first thought and understood," he said.
"It’s really that top end that I’m lacking when the real selection is being made in the final of uphill finishes. That’s where I’m finding myself legless and that would seem to be the case. That’s something we have to look at and it will take time to analyse, and I want to be back at a good level, of course."
Asked if it was difficult to alter personal ambitions, Evans laughed, before replying:
"The team said. The team decided. I’m here to do my job and of course I tried on one aspect with GC and couldn’t deliver on that for whatever reasons and that only came in the last 24 hours.
"You go in with big ambitions and it’s not that you get anywhere with ambitions. They’re a strong driving point, but not delivering is always disappointing to deal with. It’s something that is inevitably going to happen every now and then in sport, at the highest level at least. I just have to accept that I can’t go back and rectify my time losses. That’s just the way it is, I’ll put that behind me and get on with it."