After calmly negotiating the frenetic opening week of the Giro d’Italia, Cadel Evans (BMC) continued his quiet progress and moved up to second place overall with a solid performance in the testing stage 8 time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara.
Evans took 7th place on the 54.8km course, 39 seconds off stage winner Alex Dowsett (Movistar), but limited his losses to new maglia rosa Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins (Sky). The Australian now lies just 29 seconds behind Nibali and 47 ahead of Wiggins on general classification.
“I think I’m shaping fairly well on classification at this point but we’ll see from here on in: I think the Giro changes from here on in,” Evans told reporters through the rolled-down window of the BMC team car after the finish. “I think a time trial always shows everyone’s cards. It’s a good position to be in at this point but the real Giro is just starting.”
Since winning the Tour de France in 2011, and especially over the opening months of this season, Evans has sometimes struggled against the watch, but his showing in the Marche on Saturday was a sign that he was drawing closer to solving that particular conundrum.
“Compared to the other guys I’ve been riding reasonably well during the week, which was a good sign but for one reason or another I hadn’t had a good time trial this year but it’s started to come together now,” he said. “It gives us a bit of a yardstick to look towards the rest of the Giro.”
The Saltara time trial was an exacting one, as demonstrated by the winning average speed of just over 43 kilometres per hour, and Evans acknowledged that it was difficult to gauge his effort over the rolling parcours.
Although he did not realise it at the time, however, Evans can take heart from the fact that he was the quickest rider on the final 3.3km climb up to the finish line outside the Villa del Balì. The Australian covered the drag 5 seconds quicker than Wiggins, 6 seconds quicker than Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and 8 seconds quicker than Nibali.
“The first third was rolling and undulating, it was sort of like the Amalfi coastline there,” he said. “Then you had a couple of open sections and two really steep climbs which in such a long time trial is very taxing. It’s hard to stay within your limits on the steeper pitches. It really had every sort of variation possible.”
The expected fight back from Bradley Wiggins did not quite materialise on Saturday as he could only manage 2nd place on the stage, but Evans said that the Englishman may well have been still suffering the after-effects of his crash on the road to Pescara on the previous stage.
“I think he’s had a rough couple of days and hitting the deck can really knock you around and that really shows up in a time trial,” Evans said. “I’ve been in that situation myself back in the time trial in the Tour de France in 2008. You do everything right and you’re riding okay but if you’ve got a few bumps and bruises it can really affect you."