By Andrew Hood
Cadel Evans vows to keep fighting in this Vuelta a España, but he will probably lose sleep when he thinks about his ill-timed puncture in Saturday’s decisive climbing stage to Sierra Nevada.
The Aussie’s chances of overall victory were shattered when he punctured near the Cat. 1 Monachil summit. A botched wheel change froze the Silence-Lotto rider neat the top of the climb just as his rivals were barreling down the other side.
Smelling blood, race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) and the other GC riders poured on the gas and collaborated to gap the dangerous Evans as much as possible. To add insult to injury, race officials later fined Evans 10 seconds.
VeloNews spoke with Evans before the start of Monday’s stage to gauge his reaction to the Monachil disaster:
VeloNews: How are you feeling after your problems Saturday. Is it easy to forget that and put it behind you?
Cadel Evans: You try to forget about it, don’t you? You try to.
VN: It was unclear on television — tell us what happened.
CE: I punctured and two neutral mechanics couldn’t change the wheel. They couldn’t get the wheel in. The media and the photographers blocked the road, and the team car couldn’t come through, so I was stranded. The job of neutral assistance is to offer assistance. It probably cost me the win of the Vuelta.
VN: It happened before the Monachil summit. Not a good place to puncture?
CE: It was just a little bit before Monachil summit. I couldn’t ride the descent, because by cycling standards, you get quite a bit of G-forces in the bottom corner, I don’t want to roll a tire on that descent. I changed the bike as quickly as I could. I decided to change immediately. I am pretty disgusted, to be honest.
VN: Once you made the bike change, you were forced to ride most of the climb alone?
CE: I was standing there for one minute and 23; and there was nothing I could do without a wheel. I was eight seconds down on classification. What am I supposed to think? Fortunately, (Samuel) Sánchez was there and I rode with him for a while, but he recovered and he rode away from me.
VN: And the fine?
CE: Then they fine me for 10 seconds for getting a bottle, I mean, come on. I had to get a bottle, because they couldn’t change the wheel, I had to change the bikes, so I needed to get a new bottle. There was still one hour of racing to go. They gave me a 10-second penalty, which really isn’t that big of a deal, but if you go back and look at the results from the 2007 Vuelta, you might see 10 seconds to me is quite important. It probably won’t change anything here.
VN: Do you feel frustrated with all that’s happened?
CE: Frustrated, yeah, I’d call it frustrating!
VN: You’re obviously still in for a shot at the podium. Did you try to break it open up La Pandera on Sunday?
CE: I really wanted to take a little time there. I had a gap of 23 seconds on Valverde, I thought, “This is exactly what I need.” I put it down where I could. I don’t know how, but he and Sánchez made a recovery on the last part of the climb, it was incredible. You do what you can in that situation. I had to spend a fair bit of energy at the start. I think we had three punctures going through Jaén. I was riding at the front, wondering where all my teammates were, we had three punctures in one kilometer. I was up there by myself, using a lot of energy staying at the front. It was very dangerous, because it was very slippery, and that cost me a little in the final. I didn’t have much left in the last few kilometers.