Australian cycling’s much-hyped duel this May between Cadel Evans and Richie Porte has hit an Italian road block.
The two stars were forced out of the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in the last few days.
Porte did not start stage five because of illness and Evans’ poor form prompted him to pull out before the seventh and final stage.
Evans and Porte are two of the star attractions at the May Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) and they have made the three-week Grand Tour their major objective this season.
Their Tirreno setbacks are not disastrous, but also far from ideal.
“Obviously, my results are not anywhere near my expectations or intentions coming here,” Evans said in a BMC team statement.
“I will have to go home and reassess the situation and start again toward the next goals.”
It is a far cry from January, when Evans and Porte started the season in world-class form.
Evans was second and Porte finished third behind fellow top Australian Simon Gerrans at the national road championships.
Then Evans and Porte won a stage apiece at the Tour Down Under, where Gerrans again took the overall title.
Evans finished just one second behind Gerrans in the general classification and Porte was an impressive fourth.
So expectations were high that Evans and Porte would be among the heavy hitters at Tirreno-Adriatico.
But the only result of note for the two Australians was when Porte finished fifth in stage four.
While they faltered, Spanish star Alberto Contador dominated the race to show he is back to top form.
“It is disappointing because we obviously worked a lot and I worked to continue the momentum that we started at the Tour Down Under,” Evans said.
“But obviously, the results tell a different story.
“We have ups and downs. That’s life.”