Cadel Evans appeared to be the only rival to Ivan Basso at the Giro d'Italia, but that changed on Friday as he came under the hammer and lost almost all chances to win his first Grand Tour.
The Australian World Champion started the day third overall, 42 second behind Basso. However, with no BMC Racing team-mates to help and Basso's dominating Liquigas team, he cracked on the Passo del Mortirolo
Valerio Agnoli, Sylvester Szmyd and Vincenzo Nibali drove the pace over the Mortirolo to drop Evans and help their leader Basso move closer to his second Giro d'Italia win. Basso ended the day in second place, but gained enough time to take the pink leader's jersey from Spaniard Davide Arroyo and to see Evans drop to fifth overall.
"Liquigas' rhythm was a little too much for me with the condition I have now. There was nothing to do," said Evans.
"Liquigas can ride such a rhythm on the climb, you know, there are five of them and only one of me, and one of all the others. They have the strength in the numbers, but they also have the strength in their leader. Consistently, especially in this second half of the Giro d'Italia, Ivan has been a little bit better than me."
Despite losing ground on the Mortirolo, Evans found company with Arroyo, Carlos Sastre, Alexandre Vinokourov and John Gadret on the descent and on towards the finish in Aprica. It was no use though, Evans' disadvantage to Basso rose from 1'42" at the top of Mortirolo to 3'04" in Aprica.
"I tried to recover a bit on the descent, but I almost went off the road, maybe because of the cold, I don't know," Evans continued. "It doesn't give me confidence when I start to go like that. I was left upset by loss in classification, but what can I do?"
It is a case of 'game over' for Evans, who closed himself in the bus after the stage and refused to talk further to journalists. There are two more stages, Saturday's mountain stage over the Passo di Gavia and Sunday's time trial into Verona.
"We are talking about minutes to Ivan now," said Evans. "If he continues to have those same legs, it will be difficult to win."
Giro d'Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
2010 Giro d'Italia coverage in association with Zipvit
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