Cadel Evans has learnt in his years as a professional cyclist just how quickly the scales of fate can tip in his favour – or mercilessly against it.
Evans has lost races – many of them major – because of injury, illness or mechanical mishap. But he has been on the receiving end of fortune too, such as in 2011, when his wish to race a Tour de France spare of bad luck came true and he became the first Australian to win the world's biggest bike race.
Hence, his caution when speaking of the good that has come his way in the Giro d'Italia on Monday and Tuesday after avoiding a crash on stage one in Naples last Saturday and losing time in the 17.4 kilometre team time trial on the island of Ischia on stage two on Sunday.
After the 246km fourth stage from Policastro Bussentino to Serra San Bruno in the region of Calabria in the toe of Italy, Evans was in 10th place overall at 42 seconds to the Italia race leader Luca Paolini (Katusha), while race favourite Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was down to sixth at 34 secs.
But when asked if Tuesday's rain-drenched stage, in which he placed sixth in a sprint between about 40 riders won by Italian Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole), was significant, Evans said flatly: "No . . . [it is] just one step in the prelude to the real race, I think."
Heartening for Evans was that his BMC teammates rose to the occasion after the disappointment of their 12th in Sunday's team time trial. And he says the reward for all – including himself – was a major boost in confidence for what lies ahead. That Evans repeated his strong ride on Monday with another on Tuesday will only further raise spirits as the Giro approaches Friday's hilly seventh stage, and the 54.8 km stage eight time trial on Saturday.
"After losing time [in the team time trial], it's good encouragement for the team. Any little bit if time is going to help at this stage because when we get to the mountains it is going to be hard to make up time, I think," Evans said.
Evans does not underestimate Friday's 177km stage from Marina di San Salvo and through the Appenine Mountains to Pescara, even though some observers might expect the overall contenders such as Evans, Vinzenzo Nibali (Astana) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) would try and save energy for Saturday's time trial where Wiggins, a master in the discipline, will be expected to dominate. However, because of that, Wiggins' rival will probably attack on Friday in an attempt to take some time on him, if not to try and tire him out for Saturday's race against the clock.
Watch stage six of the Giro d'Italia – 169km from Mola di Bari to Margherita di Savoia – live on Eurosport, channel 511 Foxtel from 10.15pm on Thursday.