Cadel Evans stands to add time to his overall lead in the Giro d'Italia's time trial tomorrow. The 41.9-kilometre stage in Piedmont's wine producing hills should suit the Aussie - but the mountains may count more.
"Cadel's the best on paper out of the GC riders. He's a specialist," Evans' sports director at BMC, Valerio Piva said. "But rivals like Nairo Quintana should be able to defend themselves well given the climbs."
The stage passes through the Langhe and Roero hills that produce Nebbiolo grapes. From the start, the road climbs 12 kilometres straight into the hills southeast of Alba instead of taking the valley road to the north. It twists left and right, passes the Manera vineyards, travels down in the valley.
The road runs straight for 11 kilometres through the time check in Alba and allows power riders like Evans to build an advantage. It kicks up for four kilometres, runs through the Bussia vineyards and drops back down three kilometres. The final 1.7 kilometres kicks up at 4.2% to the line in the shadow of Barolo's Marchesi Falletto castle.
Italy's top time triallist, Adriano Malori of team Movistar won the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial head of Bradley Wiggins and placed eighth at the Worlds last year. He ruled himself out of the 12th stage, however. He said the day suits Evans and Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who sits second overall at 57 seconds.
"The course is very hard and not too much for me," Malori said. "I can ride a good time trial, but the 20 kilometres of climbing is too much and I can lose a lot." Also not in his favour, Malori crashed heavily during stage 10, extensively grazing his right side.
Evans previewed the time trial prior to racing, and winning, the Giro del Trentino last month. Urán saw it before the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March. Colombian Nairo Quintana, Malori's team-mate, has not been to see the course.
"It's long, it's not easy. We'll see big differences," Piva said. "The time trial suits powerful guys, the first climb is steady with good roads. It's not a steep, steep climb. It's a good time trial for Evans."
Evans sits on top of the classification with 57 seconds on Urán, 1-10 on Rafal Majka, 1-20 on Domenico Pozzovivo and 1-45 on Quintana, who is further back in eighth.
Even though he is a lightweight Colombian climber, Quintana defends himself well in a time trial. He placed second to Tony Martin in the Tour of the Basque Country last year and used the result to secure his overall win. At the Tour’s time trial, which featured two big climbs, he held Chris Froome at 1-11 minutes.
Urán has placed in the top 10 a few times in time trials. At the hilly, 18.5-kilometre time trial at the Tour of Romandy in April, he placed fourth behind Froome.
"Rigoberto just has to win or finish on the same time to the others. If he doesn't, to lose time to Evans, then it's OK. The third week of the Giro will be the week of truth," team Omega Pharma general manager, Patrick Lefèvere said.
"It's a mental game. Either you hit your rivals on the head with a hammer or you hit yourself because you lost time. However, you're not going to win the Giro in the time trial."
Urán nodded towards Evans. He said that the Aussie could gain more time tomorrow, but not much.
"He's the favourite, but if I stay close then we can continue to battle for the overall in the mountain days that follow," Urán said. "Those are going to be more important."
"Every day, every training ride, I've gone out with an objective," says Giro leader Cadel Evans
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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