Cadel Evans has worn the maglia rosa twice before at the Giro d'Italia, and twice, his time in pink has been short-lived. But making his third time in pink just as fleeting, might be the key to him winning the 2014 Giro d'Italia, writes Al Hinds.
In his first Giro d'Italia way back in 2002, a boyish 25 year old Evans announced himself with a phenomenal Grand Tour debut that saw him capture pink on the race's penultimate mountain test. A leader only by default after the departure of team captain Stefano Garzelli, Evans rode above his station to very nearly capture the overall win.
But for one tough day in the mountains, the final ascent to the Passo Coe on Stage 17, Australia might well have had a Grand Tour winner a decade before the 2011 Tour de France. Alas, his legs cruelly failed him at the last, and Evans first day in pink, was also his final one.
It wasn't until 2010 that Evans would again wear pink, albeit far earlier in the piece. A crash late on the second stage to Utrecht saw leader Bradley Wiggins lose time, and Evans, best placed of the front group took pink. Again, his time in the jersey would be fleeting however. The following day Evans was caught out by the crosswinds, and Alexandre Vinokourov overhauled the Australian to take the jersey.
And now, after the mountainous finish to Stage 8 on Montecopiolo, Evans has again assumed pink. Of all three appearance in pink, this time would appear the most serious of his maglia rosa assaults. Unlike 2002, where Evans was a Grand Tour debutant, riding a race over his head, or 2010, where the Tour de France was still in the back of his mind, the Giro this year clearly has Evans's full focus, and with the maturity and experience he's gathered since 2002, there's no reason to say he can't turn a lead, into a win. A possibility raised by my colleague Anthony Tan, last week.
However, to maximise his hopes, Evans would do better to shed pink, if he can, in the day's that come, rather than attempt holding through race finish.
Well, historically riding in defence of the lead has been the kiss of death for his Grand Tour chances. The 2008 and 2010 Tours de France, the 2002 and 2010 Giri, and the 2009 Vuelta, all saw Evans go on to be usurped, and slip from the lead in difficult circumstances. Injuries, punctures, fatigue, the jersey just didn't fit.
Indeed, in Evans's only Grand Tour win, the 2011 Tour de France, his only day in the lead was on the Champs Elysees. Europcar was left to take on much of the responsibility with the press and indeed at the front of the peloton, while Evans was allowed to bide his time.
With more than half the Giro to come, Evans has painted a massive target on his back as the form rider of the race, and indeed, for his efforts he has the jersey. But carrying that from hereon would be not be percentage play for BMC or Evans. It would mean defending the jersey for the best part of two weeks, a prospect that would put the team under increasing pressure as the race reaches its climax on the Zoncolan.
Because of the importance of those final few stages, Val Martello, the Grappa, the Zoncolan, keeping the team as fresh as possible is going to be critical to Evans having pink 1 June in Trieste. If he's clever, he'll be thinking big picture, and that may mean letting the jersey go as quickly as it came.
Editor's note: To be explicit, I'm not suggesting Evans gives time to his rivals in the pursuit of pink; Uran, Quintana, etc, but rather someone out of the picture. Michael Rogers at just over eight minutes would be a good candidate if given time in a break.