A good performance in January is not as important as a good performance in March but the later performance is usually an excellent indicator of what can happen in May, writes Philip Gomes.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

At January's Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships and the later Santos Tour Down Under, BMC's Cadel Evans appeared to be on target for a winning performance at the Giro d'Italia to come in May.

Evans mixed it with the rest of Australia's best to finish second at the road nationals, behind Simon Gerrans who took the title. He then followed up with a stage win and second overall at the Santos Tour Down Under, again behind Gerrans, who had specifically targeted both events as season goals.

For Evans it was looking like both races would be an Australian aperitivo and antipasto to a later dolce, caffè and digestivo in Italy.

But since then things haven't gone so well and January's optimism has given way to a less certain outlook in March.

A 5th at the Tour du Haut Var and a 7th at the Strade Bianche looked promising, but then came Tirreno-Adriatico.

11th, 39th, 19th, 56th, 67th, 143rd before he decided to pull out of the race before the final time trial.

Evans's performances on key climbs against riders who will be at the Giro d'Italia was not what the rider would have expected, and the mountainous Stages 4 and 5 would have stung particularly hard, with Evans dropping off the pace set by Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador.

The top 10 on Stage 4 saw eventual Tirreno-Adriatico winner Contador lead the peloton home and Evans finished over eight minutes behind. Contador is Tour de France bound and with his key objective still over three months away the contrast was stark.

More important for Evans would have been the the performances of several future Giro rivals, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Lampre-Merida's Chris Horner (who abandoned after Stage 5 due to an Achilles injury), Australian compatriot Richie Porte (who later abandoned after Stage 4 due to illness) and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

All proved that they are on track to a good Giro and within range of the imperious Contador in terms of fitness.

On Stage 5, again won by a rampant Contador, Evans was scarcely better than he was 24-hours earlier, and his energies were redirected to working for better placed BMC team-mate Ben Hermans.

In an interview on the BMC team website Evans did not shy away from his performance shortcomings.

"Obviously, my results are not anywhere near my expectations or intentions coming here," said Evans.

"It is disappointing because we obviously worked a lot and I worked to continue the momentum that we started at the Tour Down Under. But obviously, the results tell a different story.

"So I will have to go home and reassess the situation and start again toward the next goals."

With no racing days now scheduled until the Giro start, Evans is left with some work to do, and barring a last-minute change of plans, no events in which he can gauge his relative fitness.

(UPDATE: Evans is scheduled to next compete at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, 7-12 April.)

Still, he does have a career long history of defying the form guide, finishing 22nd overall at last years Tirreno-Adriatico before landing on the podium at the Giro d'Italia.

Earlier this year, after his national championships and Santos Tour Down Under performances, Evans said that he would wait until after the Giro before considering the next step in his career.

"I'm trying not to (think about retirement). I'd like to do a good Giro and then use that as an indicator for the future," said Evans.

"My main thing is to get back to my top level, whether that's 2011 level or even one or two percent less.

"I wouldn't want to retire early, thinking six months down the track 'I think I could be at the front, beating those guys'."

"You don't want to cut yourself short, but of course you don't want to be trying to squeeze out any more than what is actually there."

As a veteran athlete Evans knows what is required to match his rivals at Grand Tour level, but at 37, time is running out.