Stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under had all the hallmarks of Cadel Evans at his scintillating best. He was gritty, he was gutsy, he was, again a rider without peer, writes Al Hinds.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Evans has been cagey all this week in Adelaide with the press and the fans. He's been happy to stand for a handful of photos, and give away tidbits of information on his plans for the week, but on the whole he's been reticent to linger too long. He's been distant, not out of malice, but of a desire to remain totally committed to the cause. A reflection of the mentality of the finely-tuned athlete we all know he is.

Just shy of a fortnight ago at the nationals in Buninyong, Evans was enigmatic when asked about his silver medal ride. Neither disappointed, nor overly pleased, the 36 year old seemed less concerned with the result and more interested in getting a read on how he was travelling into Adelaide.

"Like I always said, the most important thing was to come here and use this as a stepping stone for the Tour Down Under," he told reporters after the race. By Stage 1, in Angaston, Evans was foreboding. In Sterling, ill-positioned, but powerful.

Today on Corkscrew Road, the edge, which Evans lacked on Buninyong was razor sharp - even leaving the otherwise imperious Simon Gerrans behind on the most testing part of the two and a half kilometre climb.

It was a gamble to go from as far out as he did, but great sporting triumphs are made from the daring. Evans sniffed the chance to shake the race up, and pounced. In a window of what we can perhaps expect from the Tour champion at the Giro d'Italia, Evans left the field in his wake with only Richie Porte able to stick with the Australian's tempo. But even Porte was unable to keep in touch.

"Cadel was absolutely flying, I tried to go with him, but on those hairpins, I just couldn't stay with him," Porte said in praise of Evans.

Perched on the crest of Corkscrew I had a bird's eye view of the the Australian as he went through the KOM. He had his familiar gait, sans the suffering. He was man on a mission, a man that appeared to shake off doubts over his ability, his age, his form. He was, as he was, in 2011, peerless.

"In this sport when you take a chance you know that when you have an opportunity you have to run with it and right until the last 300 metres I still wasn't sure that I had it," he said after crossing the line

But true to form, Evans let little of the emotion of the day filter through. Even at the finish, the celebration was restrained, a simple fist pump was all he showed, his mind already on the bigger picture for the week - finishing in Ochre in Adelaide, Sunday, and in just over three months time in Italy at the Giro.

Whatever happens from here though, win or lose, the most important thing to take from today's win is the return of a Cadel Evans able to inspire fear in his rivals, a man able to pound his pedals like no other. There was no fragility, no anxiety, no self-doubt in his performance. It was calculated, and magical to watch. "Everyone," as Allan Peiper said to reporters at the finish, "can see the happiness Cadel has when he's riding his bike (at the moment).. You can't underestimate the boost he's had from the Australian public, from the Nationals, and from the racing this week.. It's really exciting."

Exciting indeed. Evans is riding a wave, the question now, is how far will it take him?