It's not often you find yourself in a winning position less than a week into a Grand Tour. But that's what Cadel Evans has effectively done, writes Anthony Tan.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

We're just coming up to a week's racing, the peloton has not yet completed a major mountain stage, and for the GC guys, the classification looks like so:

1 Michael Matthews (AUS) Orica-Greenedge 24hr 18min 14sec

2 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team 0:00:21
3 Rigoberto Uran (COL) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step 0:01:18
4 Rafal Majka (POL) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:25
7 Ivan Santaromita (ITA) Orica Greenedge 0:01:47
10 Ivan Basso (ITA) Cannondale 0:02:06
11 Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar Team 0:02:08
12 Wilco Kelderman (NED) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:11
14 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R La Mondiale
17 Michele Scarponi (ITA) Astana Pro Team 0:02:28
24 Pierre Rolland (FRA) Team Europcar 0:03:01
39 Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin Sharp 0:04:39
60 Joaquin Rodriguez (SPA) Team Katusha 0:09:40
80 Nicolas Roche (IRE) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:15:55

After watching Thursday's sixth stage on the box, I asked myself the question: Has Cadel already won this thing?

We need to wait till the weekend, but it appears his form is at, or very close to, his 2011 best.

His main climbing domestiques, Samuel Sanchez and Steve Morabito, after a less than par showing on Stage 5 to Viggiano, came good a day later to Montecassino, particularly the latter; Morabito a part of Evans' TdF-winning team and also at last year's Giro, where the Australian finished third.

Besides, history has shown that if he can be reasonably well sheltered on the flat, and on big mountain stages before the final climb, Cadel can handle the rest.

What were likely to be his two-closest rivals for this year's Giro crown, Nairo Quintana and Joaquin Rodriguez, both crashed on Thursday's stage, as did half the peloton, it seemed. Quintana is battered and bruised, as are four of his team-mates who also hit the deck, but not seriously hurt. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is out, along with team-mates Angel Vicioso and Giampaolo Caruso, a fractured rib adding to the two he busted earlier at the Amstel Gold Race. "There is no other option than to stop," a forlorn Rodriguez, via a team press release, said.

In my blog I wrote earlier this week I said there were five firm favourites.

Well, Uran and Pozzovivo were also involved in the crash en route to Montecassino. The wounds of the former are superficial more than anything and the latter was 'only' caught in the melee, but did take a tumble the previous day, and, like Thursday, the incident occurred close to the foot of the final climb - two big efforts in two days just to stay in contention.

Following Friday's stage to Foligno there are back-to-back high-mountain stages, both ending with summit finishes 1,000 metres above sea level, before the second of three rest days Monday.

Next Thursday, a 41.9 kilometre time trial awaits that will suit Evans to a T. If you've crashed, as his rivals have, then getting into the much lower, more streamlined TT position may be problematic. And even if they hadn't, they would expect to lose time, because the Australian is clearly superior against the clock.

His opponents are at the point where they know that, if they are to win, they need to take risks.

Evans is at the point where he knows that, if he is to win, he need not risk anything. And he is a master at defensive riding.

For Cadel, maintaining the status quo will win him the Giro d'Italia.

SBS will broadcast every stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia LIVE! There will be nightly highlights at 5:30pm on SBS ONE, and each stage will also be streamed live here at Cycling Central.