Having entered the race as the leader for BMC, Cadel Evans turned helper for teammate Ben Hermans on the queen stage of Tirreno-Adriatico which included the Muro di Guardiagrele which at points reaches a gradient of 30%.
Hermans made his way into the leading group up the penultimate climb of the day but couldn't maintain the pace of the top GC riders and instead with the help of Evans as a super-domestique, and also Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Hermans surged on the downhill in an attempt to reach the leaders but an unfortunate puncture halted his chances for a good result.
"The team was around Ben and Cadel was working for him to bring him into a good position because he was a little bit lost at the beginning of the climb. But with the help of Cadel, Ben came back. He made a very good chase and, at the top of the Passo Lanciano, he was not far from the group of Quintana," sport director Valerio Piva said who rated the day as "three stars" out of five.
"He was unbelievable in the downhill but then he had the puncture and was unable to catch that group."
For Hermans, the help from Evans and encouragement from Piva in the team car spurred him on, but ultimately the Belgian, who signed for BMC having spent four years with RadioShack, was unable to recover from the puncture.
"When I reached the top, I went full gas in the downhill because you don't waste a lot of power there. I made a gap and I was on my way to the other group. But then I hit a rock and I had a puncture on my front wheel. I lost touch again and I had to start chasing again. Because of that, I came up short in the end," Hermans said.
While BMC entered the race with the 2011 winner of Tirreno looking to impress in the build up to the Giro d'Italia, Piva explained that the 2009 world champion needs to be his best in May and not March. As a consequence, Piva stated that Evans was therefore willing to help his teammates out.
"If you're not 100% it's difficult to recover and riders like Cadel, the leaders, they want to stay with the best but it's not easy to fight for the top 25 positions so in the morning he was thinking to get into the breakaway. But he chose to help Ben because he was not able to stay with the best riders today and he chose to work."
While Tirreno is traditionally raced in preparation for the Giro, it is Alberto Contador that is in ominous form although he is building for his season goal, the Tour de France.
Evans' Giro rivals which include Riche Porte (Sky), who pulled out the race due to illness, and the Colombian duo of Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick step) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) have also had under the radar performances so far.
"If you see Contador [he] is in super top [form] but he's not going to the Giro, he's building for the Tour de France and he will have a recovery after the classics, and Cadel is different," Piva said.
Piva explained that the next objectives for Evans are to be two more stages races as he continues his preparation for the Giro's Grande Partenza on May 9 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
"It's a lot of work now for the Giro, we came here to Tirreno to try to do a good GC but it's not possible to be possible to be 100% here in preparation for the Giro, so Cadel now has to refocus for the next stage race like Pais Vasco and [Giro del] Trentino then he needs to build his condition for the Giro. And if he's 100% now, I don't think it's a good thing for the Giro," Piva said.
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