Aim for the podium or ride to win? With four days to go, that's the question Cadel Evans is likely asking himself over and over again. Anthony Tan thinks it's a no-brainer.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

A week and a half ago, and a few days before Fairfax journalist Rupert Guinness left for the Giro d'Italia, he and I were having a coffee down at the beach here in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

Actually, come to think of it, I had a coffee and Rupert a Riesling, two in fact, but that's besides the point.

The race was halfway in. The day before, Pieter Weening had won the ninth stage to Sestola. Cadel Evans was in pink, enjoying a 57-second advantage over Rigoberto Urán and 1'10 on Rafal Majka. Domenico Pozzovivo was fourth at 1'20 and Nairo Quintana, well, he was ninth, 1'45 behind the maglia rosa.

The major mountains were yet to come but Rupert and I both felt confident that Evans' experience, not to mention return to form, would see him do well. Very well.

Win, even.

Rupert was going to be busy, I thought, chasing either Cadel or Orica-GreenEDGE each day - or probably both.

It was turning out to be the Giro d'Australia.

However by the time Rupert arrived in Italy, the 2011 Tour champ had unexpectedly lost the race lead in the Stage 12 time trial, ceding the leadership to Urán, and OGE were down to five men, then days later floundered to three. It's now a matter of survival for the Australian outfit.

Before the first mountain stage to Oropa, on Stage 14, Evans said: "I think we will see a different Giro from tomorrow on."

Sure enough, the seven riders behind Urán on GC made time on him, but Evans, along with Wout Poels of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, profited least, clawing back just five seconds, while Quintana gained twenty-five.

Bravely, Rupert asked Cadel if he would dare to sacrifice his current podium position to try and win.

"Well, that's for me to decide."

On Stage 15 to Montecampione, the face of the race changed again as Astana's Fabio Aru, the day's winner, emerged as a contender for the title, while Urán held firm.

Evans, meanwhile, would concede 31 seconds to Urán; over two stages, a net loss of 26 seconds. "Today was not my best day," he said.

"I think Urán raced really well. I could have raced a little bit better, but there's not much I can do about that now. There are still a lot of days to come."

There were six stages left; four would impact the overall classification.

Not a lot, but enough.

"We have had two weeks of racing and the first riders in the GC are divided only by a few minutes," Evans said. "I don't think anyone expected a Giro this close. I will try to have a good rest day and make up the difference."

On May 26, the third and final rest day, Quintana made some interesting observations.

"I have made up time in these last few days, and I feel physically better - our idea for tomorrow is gaining as much time as possible. If Urán loses just twenty seconds every day, it's obvious we don't have space enough for him to lose all the advantage, but you can see that everyone is having a worse day every stage: you saw Evans losing time, also Pozzovivo... he might fade someday, even myself."

Then this from the poker-faced Colombian.

"I still consider Pozzovivo as a big favourite - he's strong, and so is his team (...) Evans lost more time and seems like he's losing his strength. Every since the first Giro press conference I said there would be some surprises and that has been Aru so far - though he might not be for his team. Seeing how he rode yesterday, I'm sure he will be more controlled by the rest, but he will be up there for the podium, as well as Majka.

"Riders on form, like (Pierre) Rolland, can also change the race strategies with their attacks, and become a good ally for some favourites."

Pozzovivo, we now know, has bronchitis and is on antibiotics, which explains his less than optimal performance the past two mountain stages. Aru, at 23, is perhaps a bit young and inexperienced, still.

But everything else Quintana foresaw came to fruition on the road to Val Martello.

Four days from the finish in Trieste, the GC looks like this:

1 Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar 73hr 05min 31sec
2 Rigoberto Uran (COL) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:01:41
3 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC 0:03:21
4 Pierre Rolland (FRA) Europcar 0:03:26
5 Rafal Majka (POL) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:03:28
6 Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana 0:03:34
7 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R 0:03:49
8 Wilco Kelderman (NED) Belkin 0:04:06
9 Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin-Sharp 0:04:16
10 Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) Trek Factory Racing 0:08:02

Four minutes and sixteen seconds separates first to ninth. 2'35 from second to ninth. And 55 seconds from third to ninth.

In other words, the Fight For Pink is not over. And Cadel hasn't given up.

Depending on how you interpret his words, it seems he believes winning, however far-fetched a notion that may be, is still possible.

"We came here with big intentions and we came here to give absolutely our best," he said.

"We have all worked very, very hard. I think we have seen in the last couple of days that anything and everything has happened in this Giro. And anything can still happen. That is what makes the Giro so dramatic."

Anything can still happen.

How many times has that sentiment been said and re-said by the contenders and pundits so far this race?

More importantly, how many times has it come true?

If you don't think he could do what Quintana did Tuesday to Val Martello, think again.

Hesjedal and Rolland did it. Is he less of a rider than these two? I think not.

He has already finished on the podium before. We know he can do it. There is no point doing it again.

It's for him to decide, as he says, but in this topsy-turvy yet nevertheless utterly beguiling Giro d'Italia, Evans is better off riding to win, rather than riding for a top-three.

Don't you agree?

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.