Australian Cadel Evans has avoided illness that has brought some key rivals down and will continue his hunt for the maglia rosa when the Giro d’Italia hits the high mountains for two days this weekend.
Inclement weather has animated the Giro thus far and contributed to viruses, colds and fevers that have swept through the peloton. Evans’s BMC team has been hit with young team-mates in Adam Blythe and Taylor Phinney managing cold symptoms and an ill Klaas Lodewyck forced to abandon last week.
However, sports director Max Sciandri remains confident in his pink jersey contender, who after today’s 13th stage to Cherasco, which sprinter Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won, remains second overall and just 41 seconds behind current race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and 2012 champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) both withdrew before today’s stage.
“The team it’s not the level of Sky and Astana but we have a good Cadel so that compensates,” Sciandri told Cycling Weekly.
“There’s a great morale on the bus and I think a lot of teams don’t have a great morale, so where we don’t exceed in some points we exceed in others. I think it balances the team out.”
Hesjedal dramatically faded in Italy after a strong start with his team today citing the Canadian was suffering from a virus.
Wiggins revealed on the rest day Monday that he was managing a chest infection, tendonitis, and was sore from a prior crash. The Tour de France champion said the combination was not affecting his performance but more wet and cold conditions, which he doesn’t cope with well, and a worsening chest infection saw the 33-year-old bow out leaving Rigoberto Uran to lead the Sky team.
Evans confirmed in March that he would compete at the Giro. The late announcement has seen young emerging talent like Phinney on a racing for the maglia rosa crash course.
“He came into this Giro pretty late, he decided to do it pretty late, and the team was already set so we’ve had a lot to learn over the past nine days to try to figure out how to be a team that’s going to try and win a Grand Tour,” Phinney said Wednesday.
“…We’re all still surviving and doing everything we can to help Cadel and try to be the support riders that he needs us to be.”
The BMC squad competing at the Giro is a mix of youth and experience, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the Tour de France group that is set to support Evans in another yellow jersey bid this July.
Should the former world champion be in pink after Brescia, he will, at 36, become the Giro’s oldest overall winner.
Evans and Hesjedal both have ambitions at the Tour but what Wiggins targets next remains to be seen. Team boss David Brailsford confirmed Sky would back last year’s runner-up Chris Froome this season. The announcement came after a public difference of opinion on leadership between the two Brits.
Cavendish has taken the points jersey from Evans’s shoulders after two consecutive stage wins in Italy yesterday and today, and before tomorrow’s 168km slog from Cervere to Bardonecchia. Evans won the points jersey in 2010.
“I think it’s something pretty well back in his mind, maybe yes, maybe no but it’s not an objective. Pink is the objective,” Sciandri said.