With four stages left in this year's Vuelta a España, Silence-Lotto director Hendrik Redant has admitted that it will be difficult for Cadel Evans to get back into contention in the race. When asked how the team will play things out in the days ahead, he said that he expected things to be tightly controlled by Alejandro Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team, and that the time losses sustained by Evans so far would be hard to overcome.
"There's not a lot of tactics for us to choose because I think the race is going to be a bit blocked. The three days where you could do something were in the area of Granada," he told Cyclingnews. "There are still a few hard stages to come, but I think the favourites there won't be dropped. Okay, there could be a real disaster for one of the [other] general classification riders, but normally you would expect that everything will come down to the time trial."
Evans was sitting second overall and looked poised to strike, but then lost considerable time on Saturday's stage to Sierra Nevada. He punctured on the penultimate Monachil climb and had an extremely slow wheel change, then finally got a spare bike. However he was unable to return to the group of other race favourites and that, plus a penalty for taking a water bottle, cost him more than a minute.
He conceded another 18 seconds on Sunday's stage to La Pandera and is now nearly two minutes back. Evans is a strong time trialist, but Valverde has improved his own ability against the clock and finished just behind him in the Valencia time trial.
"One minute 50 seconds is a lot, of course, especially when you see that Cadel only gained three seconds [on Valverde] in the first time trial over 30 kilometres. I hope it is going to be more, he should be able to get some time back, but 1:50 is a lot. The the podium is possible, I think."
However, Redant hasn't given up all hope. "Let's hope he can still do it. Everything is still possible in life. As long as you are in the race you can do something, but you must be realistic as well."
Evans also suffered disappointment in the Tour de France when he lost time early on, then faded out of contention. Cyclingnews asked Redant how he helps a rider in that situation to pick up his morale.
"You have to tell him, 'look, this happens, we can't help it.' We have been trying to do everything we could, but at that point [when misfortune happens] it is over your head," he answered. "That is the shit thing about it. He is a sportsman, he knows that things can happen. Things can be good, having the success, doing anything you want, and then it can turn like this, losing this race in a stupid moment.
"Anyway, we'll fight on. And I hope he can ride strongly in the worlds - I think it is a race suited to him in Mendrisio. I think Philippe [Gilbert] will also be good, he is riding really strongly and he's put everything into it in terms of motivation."
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed