An encouraging performance from Cadel Evans on the opening stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, will give Australian fans hope he can still play a role in May's Giro d'Italia.
Evans was amiss in March at Tirreno-Adriatico, struggling on the key climbing days, before abandoning on the final stage. That performance sparked concern Evans would not be in the hunt for his major objective of the year, the Giro d'Italia, where he'll go up against the likes of Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez.
Both have been firing on all cylinders in the spring, Rodriguez starring in his home race the Volta ao Catalunya, and Quintana a consistent force from San Luis.
Evans started well in January, riding to second in the Australian National Championships, and second at the Santos Tour Down Under, but has had a low profile in the months since.
The Australian, 37 in February, however now looks to be back on track.
“I am reasonably happy with how I was," Evans told reporters after stage. "I was close when the real attacks went from Valverde and Contador. But they were really in a class of their own here anyways. That didn't really change much for me."
Evans finished the stage in a group of five, 36 second back on Contador, for eight on the day. He sits eighth overall with a lighter stage tomorrow.
It's Evans first time in the Basque country race since 2009, and first race since Tirreno. With only the Giro di Trentino to come before the Giro d'Italia, it's important he rides well.
"I have come off a good period of training so it was nice to transfer that to a reasonable performance today."
Evans is in the last year of his contract with BMC, and for the first time since 2005 has made the Giro d'Italia the centrepiece of his season.
The Australian will skip the Tour de France this year, before gathering himself for a potential bid at the UCI Road World Championships, in Spain, in September.
SBS will broadcast every stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia LIVE.