Australian Cadel Evans said he has not thrown in the towel ahead of his bid to overthrow Italian race leader Vincenzo Nibali and win this year’s Giro d’Italia.
Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, is second overall, 1 minute, 26 seconds behind Nibali heading into the final week of the race, which features key mountain stages including an uphill time trial.
Given he was only slated to compete several weeks before the May 4 start in Naples, Evans has impressed during a tough first two weeks of racing, in which pre-race favorite Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal withdrew due to illness.
Although he admits Nibali’s Astana team will be hard to beat, the Australian — who has a dozen or so Grand Tour campaigns under his belt — said his victory ambitions remain intact.
“To be here second overall on GC [general classification] is not so bad,” Evans said during the race’s final rest day on Monday. “Me being somewhat the ambitious rider that I am, I say it’s not impossible to win. So I’ll be a bit greedy there and keep asking more of myself.”
After a mediocre 12th place in the stage two team time trial left Evans in 62nd overall, and in spite of losing 33 seconds to Nibali on Saturday, he has stayed at the front of the chasing pack to find himself still well in contention.
“I see a very good Astana [team] and a really good Nibali, who has been able to cover everything that’s been thrown at him so far,” Evans said. “This Giro, compared to the dozen or so other Grand Tours I have done, really has been a test of teams, of concentration, of bike handling abilities and of physical abilities.”
“Being on the flats, being in the crosswind, being in the heat, being in the cold, the team time trial — everything has been such a test on everyone and everything involved in the race,” he said. “It’s been interesting to say the least, but here we are with a week to go and there are a few more opportunities. We’ll see where we go from here.”
The race resumed yesterday with a 238km stage from Valloire, France, to Ivrea, Italy.
Russia’s former Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana winner Denis Menchov has announced his retirement from cycling at the age of 35, local media reported on Monday.
Menchov, Russia’s best stage rider of the past decade, winning the Vuelta in 2005 and 2007, and the 2009 Giro, missed this year’s Italian race with a knee injury.
“Winning the Giro was no doubt the pinnacle of my career,” the Katusha rider was quoted as saying by local outlet R-Sport. “This year, I couldn’t take part in the Giro because of the injury. The Giro was my main goal for this season and I understood it was time to end my sporting career.”
Neither Menchov nor his Russian team returned calls when contacted.
Menchov started his professional career with Spanish outfit Banesto in 2000. Three years later, competing in his first three-week race — the Tour de France — he finished 11th overall and won the white jersey for the best young rider.
In 2005, a year after joining Dutch team Rabobank, Menchov won his first major crown when he was awarded overall victory on the Vuelta after Spaniard Roberto Heras was stripped of the title because of a positive test for the banned drug EPO.
Two years later, the big Russian repeated his Vuelta triumph, then won the Giro in 2009.
He was less successful in the Tour de France.
He finished fourth in 2008, but was promoted to third after third-placed Austrian Bernhard Kohl was disqualified for doping.
In the 2010 Tour, Menchov came third overall, but ended up in second after Spaniard Alberto Contador was stripped of his victory for doping.