Cadel Evans (BMC) agreed to ride the Giro d'Italia just five weeks before the start in Naples, accepting he needed the extra racing if he was going to be team leader at BMC for the Tour de France and competitive against the likes of Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador come July.
After a difficult 2012 and a nasty virus that wrecked his season, he started 2013 cautiously and was careful about his ambitions for the Giro d'Italia. He never predicted or expected that he would be second overall, just 1:26 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The dedication he showed in preparing for the Giro and his experience of Grand Tours have helped him survive and take advantage of two weeks of eventful racing, while others big-name riders' hopes have fallen away.
"My objective was to do the best I could. Going from there to second overall is not so bad," Evan said during his rest day press conference.
"Of course, me being the ambitious rider that I am, it's not impossible for me to win. But I'm a bit greedy and always ask more from myself.
"I see a really good Nibali and a good Astana team. He deserves to be in pink. He's been able to cover everything that has been thrown at him far. Compared to the other 12 Grand Tours I've done, it's been a real test of teams, of concentration, of bike handling, physical ability, of climbing, of being good on the flat, in the cross wind, in the heat, in the cold. It's been a test of everyone and everything in the race. It's been interesting to say the least. Now with a week to go, with a few more opportunities to go, we'll see where we go from here."
Asked if he can win, if he can pull back his 1:26 deficit on Nibali in the final week of the Giro, Evans was pragmatic but definitely not resigned to defeat or just a place on the podium.
"Well, I've got more chance than others," he pointed out.
"I suffered on the stage to Bardonecchia and thought I wasn't at my real level but yesterday (Sunday) I wanted to see how I felt, if it was more serious of not, and I was happy to see I was back at my level.
"The first weeks have been hard and with the third week we enter in a new dimension when it comes to fatigue. But he's got his experience too, he's won a Vuelta and rode well at the Tour last year. But if you don't try, you don't achieve anything.
"If I didn’t have hope, I wouldn't have any hope. You always hope for the best in life. But you never know whether that's realistic or not. I think my experience will help me come in a little but underdone in the third week but maybe Nibali will be untouchable till the end and I'll have to settle for something. Other than first position in that case. C'est la vie'."
The Tour de France, Tejay and team leadership
"The reason for me starting the Giro was to get in a big block of racing. It could be too much but I'd rather do too much than too little. I don't want to be underdone for the Tour. Going to the Tour like I did last year doesn't give me any satisfaction," Evans explained.
"Last year I didn’t discover I had the virus till August. Before that I was working away and doing everything to be my best for the Tour but then I went there and didn’t perform and didn’t recover."
Asked if he had seen van Garderen win the Tour of California, Evans took advantage of the time difference between Europe and the USA.
"I was sleeping during the Tour of California stages," he said. "But I guess it's a big break for him being American. I guessing he's very happy. But a Grand Tour is a big insulator from what's going on in the world."
Pushed to comment if he will be the team leader for BMC at the Tour de France, he said bluntly. "I'm not even thinking about it at this stage. I want to get this Giro done first and then we'll see."
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