As he continues to build towards the upcoming Vuelta a España, Cadel Evans received an important psychological boost when he picked up his first victory since April on stage six of the Tour of Utah.
The BMC Racing Team rider went clear inside the first hour of racing, bridging across to a breakaway group and then helping it to build a maximum lead of nearly five minutes. He, Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Development team), Riccardo Zoidl (Trek Factory Racing) and Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling) pushed ahead on the final Snowbird climb and were later joined by Wilco Kelderman (Belkin Pro Cycling).
Rosskopf attacked hard heading towards the finish but Evans, who appeared to be bluffing slightly to entice the Hincapie Development team rider and Zoidl to burn some matches inside the final two kilometres, surged after the young American and sped past him on the very brief downhill pitch to the line.
Evans confirmed afterwards that his primary objective had been to ramp up his condition prior to the Vuelta. “The main goal was to come here and race well, but mainly to race hard was my main priority,” he said. “Whether it was to race for the GC or race for the team or race for a stage result was not so important to me.
“Today as it worked out I think we had quite an aggressive and good plan for the whole team, for Micki (Michael Schär) and Danilo [Wyss] and Yannick [Eijssen] really played that plan to a T, getting into the first move. I managed to be able to get across into the break and we could really put some pressure on Garmin, which was the main goal of our plan.”
He said that the time gained would enable him to go for the stage or perhaps to improve on his ninth place overall. However another consideration was putting pressure on the Garmin-Sharp team of race leader Tom Danielson, thus potentially helping the BMC Racing Team rider Ben Hermans, who had started the day third overall.
The time gap eventually fell and Evans said that this made things very tactical on the final climb.
“In the last kilometres, it got a bit cat and mouse as the other guys were waiting for the finish. I wanted to keep a gap as it was good for me to move up from ninth on GC, but of course I had to save some legs for the finish. I needed to be able to defend any strong attacks on the last section on climb if I wanted to have some interest in the stage. So it was two or three different levels I was playing on there.
“In the end I think I probably made a move up on GC, but not a significant move. But most importantly we were there for a stage win, which was probably more important than a minor placing on GC.”
He did indeed progress, moving to sixth overall. However what was more important was notching up his first victory since he took a stage plus the overall in the Giro del Trentino in April.
Evans was disappointed by his performance in the Giro d’Italia, but Saturday’s Tour of Utah result shows that the 37 year old is still at a very high level and is on course for what could be a good Vuelta.
That in turn may well determine if he decides to remain in the peloton next year or retires from the sport. Evans has not yet made his feelings clear, and a decision on that will likely be made on the basis of how the Spanish Grand Tour and the world championships go for him.