Approaching the crucial final week, Anthony Tan wonders, is this the position Cadel Evans always wanted to be in - or is the 2011 Tour champ facing an uphill battle?
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

A little over a week ago, six stages into the 97th Giro d'Italia, I asked the question: Has Cadel already won?

At the end of the blogpost, I said this:

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

Clearly, at 37 years of age, maintaining the status quo is easier said than done.

But few expected the status quo to be broken en route to Barolo, the scene of the first of two individual time trials, where Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma-Quick Step rode out of his skin to clinch both the stage and the maglia rosa.

No, "not a tragedy" for the Australian, as Evans mused after the stage, but not ideal, either. As the man himself said: "Of course, I had hoped to have done better myself. The time trial course suited me well, but as I said yesterday, the verdict is on the road."

Should we be surprised by the ride of Uran, who, before last Thursday, had only one time trial victory to his name since turning pro in 2006 - which happened seven years ago, at the Euskal Bizikleta - and in last year's 54.8 kilometre time test in the same race, conceded one minute and nine seconds to Evans?

Yes, but not in a concerned, "Is he on something?" sort of way.

His palmarès is one of steady progression from a seriously talented athlete. Two years ago, riding for Team Sky, he was the best young rider and seventh overall. A year later, second overall, along with two stage wins.

And a year after that, leader of the Giro d'Italia.

"We came here two months ago to perform recon. We worked a lot with Specialized, including in the wind tunnel in California. I was very good at the time trial at the Tour de Romandie and carried my condition into the Giro. I kept receiving information about the times of Cadel Evans as I went along the course today. I think it made a difference. I was really hoping to win today and I'm happy I made it."

As we noted in our preview and Uran said the next day, the TT percorso "was a bit different, with two climbs and two descents. The last 20 starters rode in the dry, which helped us, and it wasn't a ITT for specialists."

He hoped to win. He expected to win. He did win.

He's confident. And he's only 27. And he appears to have timed his run perfectly.

That's the thing with guys like Uran, Nairo Quintana and Rafal Majka: They possess the audacity of youth, and as the years progress, will only improve.

And that's the thing with guys like Evans: As much as experience counts, they can only hope to rediscover their best form - which Cadel is very close to - but, I'm afraid to say, he will not get better.

Plus, he must now do what he is generally unaccustomed to doing. Attack.

Evans' strength is defence, not offence.

Plus, as Robert Millar noted in his diary on the Cyclingnews website, "Quintana and (Domenico) Pozzovivo know they are way more explosive than Evans, as is Uran. Worse still for Evans will be if he's left to his own devices on any of the mountain top finishes because everywhere else the Australian is good. Descending, hot, cold, rain or shine, he's got all those covered, but uphill he's vulnerable."

This, from the king of the mountains at the 1984 Tour de France. He should know.

Over the next seven stages, six are seriously uphill - and all with summit finishes.

As content as Uran was after the time trial, he finished by saying: "The final week, the hard stages, are still ahead of us."

Go back to my colleague Al Hinds' preview of the five greatest climbs in this year's race - Passo di Gavia, Cima Grappa, Passo dello Stelvio, Plan di Montecampione, Monte Zoncolan - and you will see they are all yet to come.

Still, all is not lost for Evans.

A little perspective is needed. He is second on GC, after all!

"My position is good tactically," he said Thursday in Barolo. "I think it is going to be interesting."

I also found interesting Uran's comments after Friday's stage to Rivarolo Canavese, won by relative unknown Marco Canola of Bardiani CSF, who profited from the peloton's ambivalence.

"I have a lot of respect for the race, and there's still a long way to go. In a race like the Giro, something can happen every day. Yesterday (in the time trial), I was strong, but there are riders here like Quintana and Pozzovivo, who are in good shape, and I'd add Majka to that list. I've a lead, but in the end it's very small one."

He didn't mention Cadel. Has he already discounted him from the equation?

Surely, not. And what of Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), fifth overall, 2'50 behind, and Fabio Aru (Astana), 3'37 in arrears?

One climb can quash those deficits.

But, I agree: Because of the brutality of what lies ahead, Quintana and Pozzovivo represent Uran's greatest threats.

"We are getting some bigger mountains – certainly not easier mountains – but we are nearly coming into the third week," said Evans of the final week ahead.

"Here it also changes everyone's recovery and levels of fatigue. I think we will see a different Giro from tomorrow on."

I think so, too.

Different. Harder. Crazier. And even more exciting.

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.