Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) raced to the third Grand Tour podium place of his career on the final weekend of the Vuelta a España, placing third in the time trial and jumping over Ivan Basso. He then finished alongside the other race favourites on Sunday's final stage, ending the three-week race third overall behind Alejandro Valverde.
That final placing went a small way towards getting over the disappointment of dropping out of contention for the win last Saturday, when he punctured at a crucial moment and ended up losing one minute and 26 seconds. His final deficit to Valverde was just one minute and 32 seconds, so clearly he would have challenged him all the way.
Evans was able to see the bright side to things on Sunday morning. "Getting to the podium is a bit better than the last time I was here at the Vuelta," he told Cyclingnews of last year. "I was in the same situation then but lost out on third by ten seconds... when that happens, it's hard to take.
"And going from fourth to third is a much more satisfying move. I was just exhausted that season, as I'd done eight stage races for the GC, done the Beijing [Olympic trials] race, came back, trained for three or four days at home, and then came to the Vuelta. I was just spent from all that. Then I had to continue on for the overall ProTour win."
Evans came to this year's Vuelta aiming to win the race. He drew motivation from what was a tough time at the Tour de France, where he was only 30th after being runner-up in 2007 and 2008. "I got ill there. I lost time in the team time trial, fair enough, but from the Verbier stage onwards I had some breathing difficulties and some health problems.
"We worked out what was wrong and hopefully it will be avoidable for the future. But these things happen. Not many people believe it, but I am always working to do my best."
So, logical question, does the Vuelta podium make up for the disappointment of the Tour? "Not at all," he answered.
Despite those setbacks, he's ready for a great World Championships Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Evans won't contest the time trial, concentrating instead on the road race. The course is a tough one and that should thin the list of contenders right down, helping him be in the hunt for the rainbow jersey.
"My plan now is to head home [to Italy]," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing my wife. I'll then meet up with the Australian team and ride with them.
"I expect that Sunday will come down to a small group [of contenders], less than in other years. At the moment, I am thinking that [Damiano] Cunego will be a rival, maybe Andy Schleck, [Philippe] Gilbert could be good. Valverde too, if he bounces back all right.
"It's going to be a great race, that's for sure."
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