Evans finished fourth in San Giacomo di Brentonico, high above Rovereto and Lake Garda, 19 seconds behind surprise stage winner Eduardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF), but took the pink leader's jersey thanks to the time BMC gained by winning Tuesday's opening team time trial.
The veteran Australian now leads Zardini by nine seconds. He gained time on all his overall rivals and has a strong BMC team to protected him but warned that the Giro del Trentino is only a stepping stone on the way to the Giro d'Italia.
"I've still got room to improve. I need to take a few more steps forward for the Giro d'Italia but I'm starting to go better and that's encouraging. I needed it after the last few months and we deserved to keep the jersey," Evans said in the post race press conference.
"I'm here to work for Giro and I hope to do well there but this is good racing and so if I get some results, that's good too. But I'm not going to throw this chance away and if I can put the team under pressure it’s a good way to get ready for the Giro d'Italia."
Evans impressed in January by taking a stage victory and finishing second overall at the Santos Tour Down Under. He struggled at Tirreno-Adriatico and quit the race, throwing his spring into doubt. However he bounced back in the hills at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and quickly found his climbing legs for the first of three mountain finishes at the Giro del Trentino.
Evans avoided specifically saying if he can win the Giro del Trentino for a simple reason.
"I never say if I can win because I never stop trying to win," he pointed out. "I'm going to take it day by day and sees what happens."
Evans is also using the Giro del Trentino to study his Giro d'Italia rivals. Ivan Basso (Cannondale) had a bad day after a long training camp at altitude, finishing more than a minute down but Evans had taken some mental notes on other riders, especially on the Astana duo of Michele Scarponi and Fabio Aru.
"This showed who will go well at the Giro, it's indicative of who will be trying to win the Giro. I saw that Aru was going well. He was impressive last year and he's good again this time. Scarponi looked good but is perhaps lacking racing after his training block. We'll see who else looks good on the other two stages. There's still a lot of hard racing to do here."