Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) made it more than clear on Wednesday’s first uphill stage of the Giro d’Italia that he is a top candidate for overall victory in Trieste on June 1st after claiming a strong second place in the small group sprint for the win at Viggiano.
Evans might not have been able to net the top spot on the stage. But apart from gaining himself a useful six seconds in bonuses, his surging acceleration at the finish confirms that there is no risk as yet of any erosion of the form that earned the BMC Racing leader victory in the Giro del Trentino last month.
Evans's third place in the Giro d’Italia last year was already ample proof that the 2011 Tour de France winner had not forgotten what it takes to shine in the Italian Grand Tour - the race where he first took a lead in a Grand Tour, way back in 2002. Then on Wednesday’s taxing stage, Evans demonstrated yet again that he continues to have a firm hold on the fraught and frantic racing that is so much a part of every Giro d’Italia.
“It was quite a long day and also really varying conditions, which is typical of the Giro,” Evans said. “It was pretty warm by the coast where we started and then you come up into the mountains it got wetter and very cold which is hard to adapt to.”
“The cross-winds were present for the best part of the day, too, and there were technical downhills as well, so you had to stay concentrated and it was quite difficult.”
The final kilometre, he said, “was a little bit chaotic, the last 16 kilometres in fact was a little bit of a blur with the wet weather. The road was very slippery, that was my main concern.
“Riding up that last climb the first time it was slippery even going upwards, so I was worried about the downhill.” With wet roads and the odd downpour creating a lot of spray, Evans said “it was difficult at times, too, to see and difficult to get a good position in the group when that happens.
”Fortunately Steve [Morabito, BMC Racing teammate] brought me back at the right moment into position... and then I was utilizing the other teams' work, I did get caught up again in the last kilometre which put me on the back foot again.”
"But I managed to recover from that and come back and if I didn’t have quite enough for the win, I was pretty close.”
As for the consequences for the general classification, Evans says “we’re in a really good position right now, thanks to the guys for the good work in the team time trial and then I could get a time bonus today.
“We’ve all worked really well, not only in the TTT but also putting me into the right position today. It’s all coming together really well and as each day passes we’ll see more and more changes in the GC.”
Next up for the Giro and the overall contenders is the second category, Monte Cassino summit finish on Thursday, which comes at the end of a very long stage of over 250 kilometres. Evans predicts the racing will result in a “very similar sort of day to today. We’re well positioned, just behind the leaders on GC, so we’ll see how we play it.”