Cadel Evans’ hopes to defend his Tirreno-Adriatico title dissolved Sunday when the BMC Racing captain was caught behind a crash late in the race’s fifth stage. After the stage, the reigning Tour de France champion admitted that he was behind in his preparation from a year ago, when he opened the season with the overall win at the “Race of the Two Seas.”
“My legs are not as good as they were last year as this time,” Evans said. “I’m sure they’re getting better and there will be better days. But the race is much harder than last year, so that is amplifying the difference between the ones who are in shape and the rest of us.”
The parcours riders have faced over the last five days has been challenging — perhaps the most challenging in the race’s history — with Saturday’s climb of Passo Lanciano to Chieti and Sunday’s mountaintop finale at Prati di Tivo. It was on the descent from the summit of the Plano Roseto to the base of the finish climb that Evans was caught out.
A crash on that descent freed a group of approximately 30 riders ahead of the finish climb, including overall leader Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan). Evans repeat bid was dealt an early blow in the race-opening team time trial when BMC lost 58 seconds to GreenEdge and 41 seconds to Horner and RadioShack. Even without missing the split on Sunday, Evans said he would not have factored in the finale at the Apennine ski station, won by Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) out of an elite group of GC contenders.
The split proved fatal for BMC’s hopes on the stage, as three riders who cleared the crash waited for Evans.
“This was like one of the hardest stages of the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia,” said assistant Fabio Baldato. “George [Hincapie], Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Schär were in the front group of 30 after the crash but stopped and waited for Cadel. It was good of them to wait, but George was having a really good day and could have finished in the top 20 for sure.”
Evans crossed the line in 45th place, finishing in a small group with teammates Hincapie and Marco Pinotti, 10:36 behind Nibali.