By Andrew Hood
It seems Cadel Evans is making friends quickly in his first season with the Mapei powerhouse. During the Vuelta Ciclista a Pais Vasco the 25-year-old Australian is roommates with fellow mountain biker-turned-roadie Dario Cioni.
Evans says he earns a different nickname every race he starts from the Italians on the team. His nickname this week? Gianni, as in Gianni Bugno.
“They say I have a head like Bugno, who isn’t a bad guy to be compared to,” Evans said.
Evans continues on his impressive trajectory, riding strong at the Basque race where he comes with illusions of overall victory. Up next for Evans is Fleche Wallone, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tour of Romandie and then the Giro d’Italia, where he will be first lieutenant to Stefano Garzelli.
“My job is to help in the final week of the race,” Evans said.
He won’t be starting the Tour de France, but might start the Vuelta a España in September if he can rebound after a very active spring.
Joseba Beloki (ONCE), Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) and Telekom’s Andreas Klöden, a winner here in 2000, and Bobby Julich were among the 29 riders who abandoned during Wednesday’s frigid stage of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco.
Di Luca and Beloki, third in the Tour de France in 2000 and 2001, both went home sick. Beloki, who returned to racing just last weekend after not having raced since early February, is not looking fit and needs to put in some serious miles in the coming weeks if he hopes to be a Tour threat.
“I wanted to continue in the race but the cold sent me home,” said Beloki. “When it’s not one thing, it’s another. I keep having to change my plans. I’ve been stopped with tendonitis and now I have a cold. I hope to recover and race in the Vuelta a Aragon.”