After a promising second place in the Santos Tour Down Under, Allan Peiper has reiterated his belief that Cadel Evans can win the Giro d’Italia. BMC’s performance manager, who recently returned from team training camp in Spain, also welcomed the news that Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will target the race, telling Cyclingnews that another rival will lead to a more settled race.
“The Tour Down Under really sets the scene for the rest of the trajectory heading towards the Giro,” Peiper told Cyclingnews.
“Cadel is back in Europe and he’ll be riding races in the next couple of weeks before building towards Tirreno. It’s step-by-step and then the rest will be the last step to the Giro.”
Evans endured a difficult two-year period following his Tour de France win in 2011 and struggled with health problems a resulting loss of form. The 2012 Tour saw him finish seventh overall despite a promising start to the year that included wins in Criterium International and third in the Dauphine.
He altered his 2013 race programme, opting to race the Giro d’Italia in a bid to rediscover his top form. That resulted in third overall, however he failed to carry that condition through to July and could not even finish in the top 35 overall.
“It’s never just one thing that upsets a rider and takes him out of his rhythm or balance,” Peiper told Cyclingnews.
“There’s a number of factors. It was a hard year when he won the Tour de France and then he got sick the next year. He wasn’t where he wanted to be and lost confidence in himself maybe, and then feeling maybe that people around him, no just the team but the public and press. They’re all things that can weigh on someone’s mind.”
“Coming back from sickness to rebuild again with the Giro last year, that was a case of feeling around in the dark and not knowing quite where you’ll come out. I think it’s been a rocky couple of years for him but adversity usually brings the best out of people and I think Cadel is really driven to back at the top. He knows he doesn’t have a long time to prove that but I think that’s going to be a big factor.”
Part of the issue, Peiper admits, may have also been down the team losing confidence in their leader at certain stages.
“That’s inevitable. With any leader who is riding really well, riders move to a new level because they have confidence in his success rate and the opposite is also true. If the leader isn’t winning there comes a sense of hesitancy or doubt about whether they can still win. I think that’s a natural phenomena that happens.”
At 36, Evans is certainly in the twilight of his racing career but despite the advancing years, Peiper believes that Evans can return to standard that saw him win Australia’s first and only Tour de France crown.
“He won the Tour in 2011 as a 33- or 34-year-old, and last year he was the oldest podium rider in the Giro history so he kind of defies the rules in terms of age. There’s no doubt it’s going to catch up with him at certain point and I think the third week in the Giro is going to be critical when it comes to the age factor but if he’s done the background work and has the reserves on board I think he’ll get through that just fine.”
If Evans is to turn back the clock and win a first Giro title, one suspects that he will have to defeat Nairo Quintana. The Colombian finished second in his first Tour de France last year and picked up a stage, the KOM and white jersey for his efforts. With Alejendro Valverde once again being dotted as Movistar’s Tour leader, Quintana has been handed the outright position of GC leader and contender for the Giro.
Perhaps not surprisingly Peiper sees the news as a positive rather than something for Evans and BMC to worry about.
“Actually that’s good news. Having more teams with leaders creates more stability in the peloton as more teams will be willing to take responsibility at different points in the race, instead of just one or two teams that spend a lot of time controlling the race for three weeks. I think the competition is good.”
The route itself, with a punishing final week, has stages that will suit Evans over Quintana, assuming that the Australian is in top form. The Barbaresco to Barolo time trial on stage 12 and the team trial at the start of the race may well favour Evans yet Peiper is aware that the mountain test to Grappa - Cima Grappa and the final week itself will offer Quintana and the pure climbers the chance to expose any creaking in Evans’ old legs.
“The time trials will suit Cadel, and I think he’ll shine in that long hard time trial. The mountain time trial at the end, that might be in favour of the other riders but if Cadel has the shape that he needs I think he’ll more than hold his own there.”
Quintana certainly isn’t the only rider Evans will have to face who has overall ambitions. Richie Porte put in a similarly strong ride to Evans in the Tour Down Under, while Chris Horner has also confirmed that he will take to the start in May.
“That’s another thing. It’s difficult to talk about adversaries. With Horner it’s a bit of a different story with him just landing a contract and starting to prepare for the Giro. I think Cadel will be ready to face him and the most important thing is not the other riders but whether Cadel is ready.”
It is almost certain that there will be a few more twists and turns before the peloton line up in Belfast on May 9 but Peiper is confident in his prediction that Evans can win, not just podium, in the race.
“I said it late last year based off what he did at the Giro last year but also on the basis of the second half of his season. In my mind the power, strength and confidence that he’s exuding only reconfirms the possibility that he can make a run for the Giro victory. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t think that was true.”
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