Cadel Evans (BMC) gained five seconds on race leader Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on the climb to the Oropa Sanctuary, cutting his deficit to just 32 seconds on the Colombian. It was a huge effort for little time on the first day in the Alps but the seconds are worth far more when calculating Evan's chances of overall success and no doubt boost his morale and undermine Uran's confidence.
Evans appeared happy with his performance after he left anti-doping and made an effort to say hello to Afghanistan refugee Nur Halimi and other friends from the Don Guanella association.
"It might have been a few more second but it was a bit of a …. What do you call it? A wave in front of me," Evans told journalists, including Cyclingnews, at the finish, describing how he weaved past several riders in sight of the finish.
"It wasn't my best day. It wasn't my worst. I wanted to see how the team was and how everything went. It’s nice to put the responsibility of the race on another team in these finishes."
Evans appeared unable to go with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) when they attacked on the climb but he opted for a calculated ride and finished only 20 seconds down on Quintana and 16 seconds behind Pozzovivo. Evans acknowledged they are a threat but knows they are still 2:32 and 1:39 behind.
"I think if Pozzovivo and Quintana want to get themselves back into a better position at the Giro, they need to utilize every opportunity like this that they can. But if they keep climbing like this and taking back time, well, they might be in a very good position to take back time."
Evans explained why he and most other riders did not have teammates with them during the key moment of the race on the final climb. Steve Morabito finished three minutes behind the overall contenders, while Samuel Sanchez finished seven minutes down.
"All the leaders were isolated quite early," he said.
"Someone set a really high tempo at the start of the climb and that eliminated a lot of the riders that might have ridden tempo or for Sammie Sanchez and Morabito to have been by my side in assistance later in the climb."
Evans spent a lot of time near Uran as the Colombian tried to defend his leader's pink jersey. He seems as intrigued about Uran's form, Grand Tour experience and ability to defend the pink jersey as much as everyone else watching this ever changing race.
"Maybe he is paying for his efforts in the time trial, I don’t know," Evans said.
"It would be a bit of a rebound effect of that. We haven’t seen him on his limit in the third week of a Tour. His results in a three week Tour until last year were a little bit… I don't know them so well until last year."
Before heading down the climb, Evans refused to reveal his plans for Sunday's stage to Montecampione, where the climb to the finish is 19.35km long and at a gradient of 8 per cent.
"That's for me to decide…" he said, keeping his cards and race strategy close to his chest.