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Cadel Evans (BMC) is back in the pink jersey for the first time since he held it late in the 2002 Giro d’Italia.
Evans was a relative newcomer to the road scene when he took the maglia rosa back then, only to lose it the next day in an infamous collapse in stage 17 to Folgaria. Racing the Giro for the first time since then, Evans says he’s now a different rider.
“It was a bit of a rush at the time, now I have more experience, but the goal is still the same,” Evans said. “We’d love to have the maglia rosa in (the Giro finish city of) Verona.”
The reigning world champion seemed as surprised as everyone that he ended up with the maglia rosa after Sunday’s crash-laden second stage at the Giro d’Italia.
A late-stage crash held up overnight leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and BMC teammate Brent Bookwalter, who both crossed the line 37 seconds in arrears, meaning that Evans — who started the day third — inherited the leader’s pink jersey by a slender one-second margin to stage-winner Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions).
Evans says the pink jersey is a bonus, but quickly added the team won’t be defending the jersey for very long.
“I am not going to go look for time bonuses on the road tomorrow against Farrar,” Evans said. “It’s very early in the Giro. Maybe some guys lost some time today, but it’s going to be minutes by the end of the Giro. I think you need to be good from the start to the end of a grand tour. I am a rider who lost the Tour by 23 seconds, so maybe I look at it differently than some riders. Let’s see in the third week, that’s when it really counts.”
Evans rolls into the Giro optimistic about his chances for the overall and, unlike some of his other rivals whom he will also see in July, doesn’t hide his Giro ambitions.
Hot off his victory at Flèche Wallonne, Evans said his off-season switch to the BMC team after five years with the Lotto squad has renewed his confidence.
“There’s a good equilibrium between my experience and the enthusiasm of my squad,” he said. “I did win races before I won the worlds — they seem conveniently forgotten about — but things are starting to come together. Changing the team and the people I am working with, and the support I have in that regard, that’s been the biggest change.”
Some have questioned the depth of Evans’ young and inexperienced BMC team. Only four riders have even started a grand tour, let alone ride and defend for a GC contender.
BMC manager John Lelangue said the final week of the Giro is so difficult, the GC riders won’t even have teammates around them.
“I brought this team by design because we will have a stronger team for July. When I saw the Giro route, I saw that the final week is so hard, there will not be a team strong enough to control it,” Lelangue told VeloNews.
“When we get to the final week of the Giro, it will be mano-a-mano with the top GC contenders. I have confidence that our team can protect and carry Evans into the final climbs. We have riders to help him over the medium mountains and then we hope Cadel will be at his best.”
Evans survived Sunday’s crash-fest and escaped with the pink jersey. He hopes his best — and some luck — will bring him to Verona with the lead.