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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Just when everyone thought Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was washed up, the Australian uncorked a thrilling attack Thursday to remind the peloton he can still throw down.
The veteran warrior pulled the double with a searing surge over the short but steep Corkscrew climb to win stage 3 and snatch the overall lead at the Santos Tour Down Under in a daring raid.
“I’ve been training well, but winning here is what we are here for,” Evans said in typical understated manner. “It’s amazing to be back in Australia and win.”
The 37-year-old Evans carries a slender but promising 13-second lead into the final three stages of his national tour that he’s started nine times, but never won.
“Time bonuses are key to win this race,” Evans continued. “It’s nice to win the stage, but we’re here for the overall. I haven’t won the GC yet.”
Even more important for Evans was regaining the confidence that comes with winning. He only won once in 2013, a stage at the Tour of Alberta, and hasn’t won at the UCI WorldTour level since a stage victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June 2012.
After two sub-par Tours de France and hampered by health issues, many wondered if the 2011 Tour champ was past his best. There was even speculation in the Australian media this week that Evans was considering retirement when his current contract runs out at season’s end.
The turn of fortune also comes just as BMC has reshuffled the power structure within the team, with Tejay van Garderen being designated as the outright Tour captain for July.
BMC has decided to divide the team into two squads; one built around van Garderen and the Tour, and the other around Evans’ push for the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia.
For BMC’s Allan Peiper, the success will only bolster Evans’ momentum heading toward May.
“This win is important for his confidence,” Peiper said. “Everyone can see the happiness that he has when he’s riding his bike. He might under estimate the boost he’s had from the Australian public, from the national championships, and racing this week.”
On Thursday, Evans showed glimpses of the determination and power that delivered the yellow jersey in 2011 to become Australia’s first Tour winner.
And he won by dropping overnight leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Richie Porte (Sky), two younger rivals who are threatening to eclipse Evans’ position as the top Australian rider.
“Cadel was obviously flying,” Porte said. “I tried to go with him, but in the hairpins, he just rode away, and there’s not much you can do.”
Evans hasn’t posted a ride like this in nearly two years. If he can deliver the same level of performances in May, it should be a very good Giro.