Giro d'Italia leader Cadel Evans mindful of tough final week

Cadel Evans took over leader’s pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia today. He placed fifth on the mountain stage to Montecopiolo and leads with 57 seconds with over half the race to come.

“The one that goes down in history,” said the Australian, “is the one that has it on the last day!”

Evans took the Tour de France race leader’s yellow jersey on the penultimate day in 2011 and won. At the Giro, he already wore the pink jersey twice before – in his debut year in 2002 and in 2010. This year, he took the lead on stage eight, with 13 more stages to race until the Giro concludes in Trieste on June 1.

Today’s stage in Le Marche finished with an 18.8-kilometre climb to Montecopiolo at 1235 metres. As race leader tomorrow, Evans faces an even harder stage to Sestola at 1538 metres.

The Giro’s signature mountains, like the Zoncolan, come in the third week. Those who want to win the overall will have to conquer Oropa, Montecampione, Val Martello, Panarotta, Cima Grappa and Zoncolan – climbs from 1500 to 2700 metres.

“For the overall win, it’s early to say who’s in with a chance or who’s going to be out,” Evans added. “To be ahead now, is a good advantage, but two minutes in the last week may not be a lot.

“The mountain time trial to Cima Grappa and the Zoncolan stage will be very particular and important, they will be hard. The Val Martello stage – with Gavia and Stelvio – is short, but very hard.”

The 37-year-old leads by 57 seconds over Rigoberto Urán. Rafal Majka sits at 1-10, team-mate Steve Morabito at 1-31, Fabio Aru at 1-39 and today’s stage winner, Diego Ulissi at 1-43.

Nairo Quintana, who placed second to Chris Froome at the Tour, sits eighth at 1-45. Overall favourite, Michele Scarponi perhaps paid from his crash two days ago on the Montecassino stage and lost 9-39 today.

Evans gained 49 seconds on the stage to Montecassino ahead of a crash that involved 60 riders. Nicolas Roche lost 15 minutes and Joaquím Rodríguez abandoned that night.

“I don’t have anyone upset with me over the crash,” Evans said. “I heard some words spoken against me, yes, but the day after, those riders asked to be forgiven. That crash was out of our control. To give the blame to one person is not right.”