As Bradley Wiggins (Sky) slid out the back of the peloton in the finale of Stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia, Cadel Evans was being carefully marshalled to the head of the field by his BMC squad. By the time a sodden afternoon's racing came to a halt in Treviso 40 kilometres later, Wiggins had lost 3:17 to Evans and the peloton, and all hopes of taking final overall victory.
Speaking after the stage, BMC directeur sportif Fabio Baldato acknowledged that Wiggins's unexpected loss had greatly improved Evans' chances of finishing on the podium in Brescia and he paid tribute to the coterie of strongmen in the BMC squad who ensured the Australian was well-positioned when the bunch split on the final climb of Montello.
"It was in my area today so I knew the roads very well today," Baldato said. "I knew that there were going to be narrow roads and wind on the stage, so I knew it was important to be on the front all the time. The objective was to keep Cadel on the front from the beginning, even if it meant spending more energy. Taylor Phinney, Danilo Wyss and Steve Cummings did a good job. Maybe we're weak in the climbs but these guys were the right guys to have Cadel at the front and safe on a day like today."
BMC's red and black jerseys were visibly massed near the head of the race as Wiggins struggled to hold the wheels of his own teammates in a group that had been tailed off from the main peloton, but Baldato said that they were not riding to distance the Englishman.
"They knew that he was behind but they also knew from this morning that this was the most dangerous 10k in the stage because of the wind," Baldato said. "We didn't look at Wiggins being dropped, it was just important that they were at the front. The sprinters' teams were making an effort on the front when the other group was dropped, so it was really important to be at the front at that point."
Evans currently lies second overall, 41 seconds behind the maglia rosa of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Wiggins' travails mean that Evans has shaken off at least one formidable rival for the final podium, but Sky's Rigoberto Uran (3rd at 2:04) remains very much in the hunt.
"With Uran and Wiggins, they had two dangerous riders. Uran is now close but Wiggins is a little bit behind. For me, I'm more confident to finish on the podium," said Baldato, who warned that Sky still had the manpower to dictate terms in the mountains. "They're not far away and they have the strongest team in the mountains as we saw already."
And Evans' aspirations? "I am happy he's there now but let's wait for the last week," Baldato said.