Cadel Evans made sure his period in the leader's pink jersey at this year's Giro d'Italia would last longer than his two previous stints.
The two times he has previously worn the maglia rosa, in 2002 and 2010, he did so only for one day before having to give it up. Evans and his BMC team made certain there was no danger of any such repeat on stage 9 to Sestola on Sunday.
For the seconds successive day, the leaders and general classification contenders watched each other and not much happened in terms of decisive action.
Nevertheless, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r – La Mondiale) managed to break away on the day's steepest slopes with around five kilometres to go and stole valuable seconds on the others.
Evans replicated his 2011 Tour de France tactics and selected his battles wisely. He opted to let Pozzovivo go but was not as generous when Omega Pharma – QuickStep's Rigoberto Uran tried a similar move.
"I didn’t respond to every attack from kilometre zero to the finish, no, but to the important ones, yes," Evans told reporters. He eventually finished with the same time as Uran and pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana, but lost 26 seconds to Pozzovivo.
"Now Pozzovivo is moving up the classification and I won’t be the only rider considering him as a bigger rival in the general classification now. I imagine he’ll be watched a bit more closely from now on and it might be harder for him to win a stage. His team was very impressive yesterday."
Evans' focus, however, is undoubtedly on Uran, who sits second overall, 57 seconds down on the Australian, and Movistar's Quintana, who is 1:45 behind after a tough first week for the Colombian.
Both Uran and Quintana were among the unlucky who were part of the mass pile-up on Thursday's stage and especially Quintana, the specialist climber, is still believed to be suffering from injuries picked up in the crash.
"Quintana is someone who hasn’t been as strong as we expected up to now, but he’ll get there," Evans warned. "Last year he went from Liège to the Tour de France without racing was second overall. This year he’s come in to the Giro without racing for a while, but I expect he will find his legs."
Evans was cautious when asked whether alliances could be forming between Uran, Quintana and the other Colombians in the peloton and if so, whether the Australian could join forces in order to protect the maglia rosa in the high mountains.
"Between the Colombians, maybe there’ll be cooperation, maybe there won’t be," Evans said.
"Sometimes there’s envy and jealousy among compatriots and sometimes whether it’s for friendship compatriots help each other and sometimes for jealousy or envy they ride against one another. I’ve certainly seen friendships between the Colombians but there are friendships between the Australians here on this race. That’s just all part of it."
The Giro will now go into its second rest day – there was a pause after stage three to allow for the race to move from Ireland to Italy – and Evans will be pleasantly surprised by the strong position he finds himself in.
And with the time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo up on Thursday, the veteran rider will be looking to build on his lead before the race enters the Alps next weekend.
"Like I said yesterday, every second of advantage I can get would be great. The Barolo time trial is certainly a place where I’d like to take time but I’ll just do the best time trial I can and then look at the results afterwards," Evans said. "I hope that a course suited to me should be to my advantage but we’ll see."
The Australian seemed relaxed as he answered questions in English and Italian and even corrected some translations. According to him, the Giro preparations have been less stressful than preparing for the Tour de France in the past.
"I’ve prepared seriously for this Giro but I could work in a calmer manner because it’s not every day that you go out of your house and people ask you if you’re going to win the Giro d’Italia," he said. "When you’re a contender for the Tour, every day people ask you if you’re going to win the Tour and after a while that gets a bit tiring."
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