BMC put on a show on stage five of the Criterium du Dauphine and Team Sky closed the show. Nevertheless it was a great fireworks display that gave us some nice clues and reminders as Le Big Show looms ahead.
First, Cadel Evans hasn’t forgotten his lesson from winning the World Championship Road race three years ago in Mendriso, Switzerland. That was the day that Mr. Calculation became Mr. PitBull and Evans transformed into an attacking, aggressive rider. He showed that fighting spirit in last years tour, for example, in the uphill finish on the Mur de Bretagne.
Today on the road to Rumilly, he surprised race leader Bradley Wiggins with a bold move on the descent of the Grand Colombier. Showcasing his old mountain bike downhill skills, he powered away with three BMC teammates and almost blew the race apart. He took a minute off Wiggins and only a concerted and powerful counter by Sky pulled Evans back. Evans admitted yesterday he still had some incremental improvements to to make but as far as race mindset, the man is ready. Reminder: Evans will be aggressive on every stage of this year’s Grand Boucle.
The second reminder is that young Tejay Van Garderen is on form and a terrific descender in his own right. Last season in the inaugural US Pro Cycling Challenge, Van Garderen took the leader’s jersey away from Levi Leipheimer by bombing the wet and technical descent off Independence Pass into Aspen. At the post stage press conference, the kid delivered a confident and wise-ass assessment of the tactics: “All due respect to Levi [Leipheimer], he’s not the strongest descender and he sometimes loses his nerve a little bit. That is one of my strong suits — I have balls. I just went for it and when I saw I had a gap I just drove it.” Reminder: Tejay still has two balls and still goes up and down mountains fast. He’s going to be a huge asset to Evans when things get hors category.
Finally, today there was further evidence that Philippe Gilbert is still struggling. This perhaps changes what we all thought would be a complicated team dynamic for BMC at Le Tour. When Gilbert and Thor Hushovd were penciled in on the Tour roster, there was much talk of the juggling act and conflicting agendas — Evan’s hunt for yellow and the two classics stars — and huge egos — aiming for stage wins.
Well, now Hushovd is out with illness and Gilbert is still trying to regain his confidence. Media attention in bike-mad Belgium over Gilbert’s lack of results was so extreme that Gilbert admitted this week that it’s been hard on his family. Gilbert may still find a way to grab a stage win at the Tour but the balance of recourses and focus has clearly shifted to Evan’s title defense.