The 37-year-old Australian won alone on the steep finish above the village of Roncone, dropping Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in the final kilometre after an aggressive ride on the steep climb to the finish. He now leads the Italian climber in the overall classification at the Giro del Trentino by 45 seconds and needs only to control the racing on the mountain finish on Monte Bondone on Friday to secure overall victory.
The BMC team management convinced Evans to forget about the Tour de France and target the Giro d'Italia this year. It was a hard decision for him to accept but his stage victory and impressive climbing in Trentino show that he is ready for the corsa rosa, which starts in Belfast in two weeks.
"It wasn't very enjoyable but it's good to win," Evans said. "Tomorrow's stage is even harder. Things can change but I'm really happy for the way things are, how the team rode and how things are looking for the Giro d'Italia."
Evans is 37 and he's been racing as a professional mountain biker and then road rider since he was a teenager. Yet he is still motivated and able to put in the hard work needed to be competitive in grand tours and tough stage races.
"I find the motivation by people saying I'm a year older," he joked. "But age is just a number that I'm sometimes judged on. But I think people can see that I'm still motivated to race. I've still got the same love for the sport, the same desire to do well and the same passion as when I was 25. Now perhaps my experience helps me. There's nothing I can do about my age, it goes up for everyone. I just don't think about it, even if I won't be racing at a high level when I'm 40."
The emotions of missing the Tour de France
Evans was initially reluctant to miss the Tour de France but now has no regrets as the Giro d'Italia nears.
"For now, no," he said, perhaps waiting to see what happens in the Giro d'Italia before giving a final verdict.
"I'm happy to give it everything for the Giro d'Italia for now. I might be sad when I have to watch the Tour on television but for ten years my whole life rotated around the Tour de France. But to win the Tour, you need the support of everyone: yourself, the team, the sponsors and everyone behind you. If you don't have that, it's almost a waste of time doing it.
"The team decided that I wasn't doing the Tour and that I should focus on the Giro. I didn't have a lot of choice but I accepted it and realised that it was a weight off my shoulders. Ten years is a long time and fortunately I managed to win one Tour, so I have to be satisfied with that.
"I've thought back to my first Giro d'Italia in 2002 and I wanted to come back and prepare properly for it really well. We've got a strong team backing me and I hope to do well."
Finding his inner peace and looking to the future
Evans was relaxed and open after winning the stage and extending his overall race lead at the Giro del Trentino. He often avoids personal questions or questions about doping but spoke sincerely in Italian when asked about both subjects.
"The truth is that I'm not always friendly with the people who aren't friendly with me. I'm not very patient or tolerant but that's life..." he said.
"My personal serenity came thanks to my victories at the Tour de France and the world championships. In our world, if you finish second twice at the Tour de France by less than a minute, you get criticised. That's frustrating. But when you win, it's a huge weight off your shoulders.
"I rode my first world championships in 1994 and won a silver medal. I've got seven or eight medals at home but after 16 years I won the rainbow jersey. Perhaps not winning gave me the motivation to continue and finally succeed.
“When I was 12 or 13 I was inspired by watching riders in the nineties. That has also made me realise the influence we riders have on people. I'm lucky to be paid to ride my bike and I hope to be an example for everyone to ride a bike. Not only to race or win the Tour de France but just to promote bike use for fitness, for fun and as a form of transportation.”
Doping scandals continue to undermine professional cycling's image and credibility but Evans believes it is time for everyone to realise the mistakes of the past and look to the future.
"I think cycling has shown what it's done in the fight against doping. I think we've done a lot to move on from a very dark moment and that it's time to look to the future," he said.
"We've had to face up to the past but it's time to look to the future. I think other sports have to follow our example with things such as the Biological Passport.
“I think we've all got to learn from the mistakes we made in the past. That includes us the riders but also the media, the teams, the fans, doctors, managers and sponsors. It was everyone’s fault, not only the riders’ fault. We've all got to learn from it and look to the future."
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