Evans sets sights on victorious Giro d’Italia campaign
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Evans sets sights on victorious Giro d’Italia campaign

by Conal Andrews at 5:50 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 

It’s been a long time coming but eight years after he wore his first Grand Tour leader’s jersey, Cadel Evans will return to the Giro d’Italia aiming for a top result in the race.

The world road race champion has had a superb season since taking gold in Mendrisio last September, and appears to be a new man, both in terms of his enjoyment of the sport and also with regard to his confidence. His rainbow jersey and his move to the BMC Racing Team have both served him well, and there is a real feeling that he will reach a higher level this year in the Grand Tours.

Evans recently won the Flèche Wallonne Classic and has been remarkably consistent in a number of other races. Highlights include third overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, fifth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, fifth in the GP dell’Insubria and sixth in both the Critérium International and the Tour Down Under. That run of results mean that he’s been one of the most prominent of the riders who will be aiming for this year’s Tour de France, and means that he is logically one of the top favourites for the Giro

“I'm very happy with how the season has started out,” said Evans, reflecting on the past four months. “It would have been nice to have a few more wins as I have been close on more than a few occasions. Looking back at this point, I am very happy how we have worked together as a team, and the progress we have made. We've been a bit unlucky and a few things have been outside of our control – with riders out of racing – but these things happen. It has been a real pleasure to work with the whole BMC Racing Team.”

Since the Ardennes Classics he has taken the chance to check out some of the key points of the Giro route, riding the high mountains and taking note of the gradient, the gear ratio requirements and the descents.

The Australian underlines the importance of the early stages, saying that the first few days in the Netherlands plus the gravel roads of the Strada Bianche must be respected, but recognises that it is in the climbs where the big differences will be made. Doing a reconnaissance of those peaks has enabled him to fully appreciate the severity of the terrain ahead.

“The 2010 Giro has some incredible mountains: Plan de Corones, Monte Zoncolan and the higher peaks, Mortirolo and the Gavia pass,” he said, listing the cruellest climbs. “It also has some interesting stages, particularly the Strada Bianche. Overall, it will take a versatile climber to win.

“At the moment, I would say Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre and Alexander Vinokourov [are the main challengers]. Then there are always one or two unexpected riders who come into the list during the race. As with any Grand Tour, the challenge will to be good, every day.”

The former mountainbike specialist gave the clearest indication that he had a big future in road racing when he took the leader’s jersey in the 2002 Giro. While he blew up and slipped back to an eventual finishing position of fourteenth overall, that spell in pink plus stage placings of second and third proved that the then-25 year old had what it takes to make it as a Grand Tour rider.

Since then, he’s twice finished second in the Tour de France, and was third overall in a Vuelta a España that, with better luck, he could well have won.

The Tour remains his biggest dream, but he’s hoping that a strong ride in the Giro will both earn him the maglia rosa and pave the way for success in July. He considers the Italian race to have grown well in the years since, and is looking forward to seeing the changes.

“I have not ridden the Giro for eight years…back then I rode it with the Italian team, Mapei. I am guessing it has changed since. In 2002, it was very much an Italian-focused race. Now, along with most of cycling, I expect the Giro – like the Tour de France – to have a more international audience.”

Evans will have his first important test in day one when he lines out in the 8.4 kilometre prologue in Amsterdam on Saturday. After that, the goal for the first few days will be to stay out of trouble, avoiding both crashes and any splits in the bunch.

Important early appointments are next Wednesday’s team time trial, then the first mountain stage to Monte Terminillo on Sunday. The final nine days of the race are the most crucial, though, with four tough mountain stages, one hill climb time trial and a flatter, 15.3 kilometre race against the clock on the last day.

It's a very tough finale but, if he has timed his form correctly, that will suit him right down to the ground.

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