Early season form welcome for World Champ
After two days of André Greipel dominating the Santos Tour Down Under, no one expected world champion Cadel Evans to feature in finale of the third stage, held in Stirling when he finished third behind Manuel Cardoso and Alejandro Valverde.
Even the BMC Racing rider was a bit surprised, although that's not to say he wasn't a happy rider after the finish. "I sort of surprised myself a bit today but like I said at the start it's just about getting everything going with BMC Racing, getting to know everyone and I think it's going very well," he said.
"I'm a bit disappointed I didn't tell them [Evans' teammates] to ride for me today and I got third. That's okay, I wasn't feeling so flash myself earlier on," he added.
Stage winner Manuel Cardoso, Evans and 2009 Vuelta a España champion Alejandro Valverde relegated the sprinters, who had featured in Tanunda and Hahndorf, to the lower pegs of the ladder after the blistering pace of the final 30km.
"It was a bit of a strange old day; it was a bit harder than most people expected - hard racing from the start and [it was] pretty windy plus the heat, of course," said Evans.
"Coming into the last kilometre it was like riding a race in slow motion, everyone was so exhausted. When I saw that it looked like they had the leadouts going - Sky, Rabobank... when they started to accelerate they blew.
"I was on Graeme Brown's wheel with 700m to go and he's just gone out into the wind and just stopped completely - for a lot of the sprinters here it's a little bit different and of course it changes. It's not often I get into the last kilometre with Robbie McEwen... in fact, never!
"I was just following the wheels through and it looked like Caisse d'Epargne had enough guys left to follow close to Cardoso but obviously not and I couldn't come round him," he added.
"It was a tough little race, early in the season."
Evans has been getting acquainted with new teammates this week, including US national champion George Hincapie, who hasn't been enjoying the Tour Down Under as much as the Australian, for obvious reasons, as he explained.
"George has had a dramatic last couple of days - yesterday he rode over the Liquigas guy in the crash, punctures and all sorts of things, plus the crash today. He's had a bit of a rough run, actually, but he seems to be going really well," said Evans.
With Evans and Valverde taking advantage of some tired sprinters, today's finish resembled the finale of an Ardennes Classic, although the Australian laughed off the suggestion is may have some meaning for later in the season. "It's a bit too early to be thinking about that - that's a few months away yet," he said.
"I'm finishing off my first block of training for the year then I'll start putting things in place but of course May [the Giro d'Italia] is going to take a little bit of preference over April. I've had a couple of hot days training here in Australia and with the Europeans who have come out here it plays into our hands a bit. Most of all, I just want to get everything going with the team and I'm progressing really well," continued Evans.
"It's been really impressive, working with John Lelangue, [George] Hincapie and [Karsten] Kroon, who are all more experienced than me so I've done nothing but learn since I've been here. It's been fantastic and the young guys have been performing really well and are really enthusiastic."
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