SNOWBIRD — In a day that was filled with attacks from the very start of Saturday's 107-mile Stage 6 of the Tour of Utah, it was Cadel Evans' response to an attack that proved to be the move of the day.
Evans was part of a four-man group that worked together up the final ascent to Snowbird Ski Resort. With 500 meters remaining, Joseph Rosskopf of the Hincapie Sportswear Development Team tried to break the field with one final, viscious surge.
The effort broke everyone but Evans, the 2011 Tour de France winner.
Evans appeared like he had been momentarily dispatched, fought his way back onto the wheel of Rosskopf, then drafted down the final, 200-meter incline before giving a few sharp pedals to pass Rosskopf and earn the stage win.
"I had a bit of an idea of how that finish went," Evans said. "I thought I probably had the most experience in the final group and that helped me feel like I was in control the whole time."
That experience was thoroughly tested in Saturday's stage as Evans was part of a group that drove the pace over the top of Guardsman's Way.
That group achieved a 4:30 lead over the peloton at the top of that summit, and held together during a harrowing descent down Little Cottonwood Canyon that saw speeds approaching 60 miles per hour.
Evans had repeatedly led the attacks of the four-man breakaway, and he let the other riders, most notably Trek Factory rider Riccardo Zoidl know that he wanted all four riders working at the front.
Evans dropped back for a moment to have a word with Zoidl and then spoke briefly with the Trek Factory car.
"I just told them we have to cooperate if we have any chance," Evans said. "We're going to be equally tired at the end and have an equal opportunity to compete for the stage win, so it was important we all shared the load."
The message seemed to get through as the group of four that also contained United Healthcare pro Lucas Euser seemed to spread the duties of taking a turn at the front, more often up the final seven-mile climb.
"In the end it was a better decision to work together," Zoidl said.
Rosskopf, riding possibly the best stage of his life, couldn't believe he was riding on the wheel of Cadel Evans in the final meters, despite doubting his abilities a good share of the day.
"I was so scared of Guardsman's Way," Rosskopf said. "Once we got over the top of that, I started to think about Snowbird and if I could actually get a stage win against these guys."
While the stage win didn't come Saturday, the young rider drew praise from the man that inched across the line just a few feet in front.
"I'd heard a few stories about him, and when you combine his ambition and talent, that is going to carry him a long way," Evans said.
Overall leader Tom Danielson suffered a scary equipment malfunction on the descent down Little Cottonwood Canyon. Danielson requested a replacement bike and had to stop to get that bike while other riders were flying down the hill past him.
Danielson's Garmin-Sharp team helped bridge the gap back to the main chase group, but the tour leader still trailed the Evans group by about 2:00 entering the final climb to Snowbird.
Danielson, accompanied by Lampre riders Winner Anacona and Chris Horner ground back all but 14 seconds of the stage lead on the final climb.
Danielson maintains the overall lead by 57 seconds over Horner heading into Sunday's 78-mile stage that finishes in Park City.