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That’s according to the current maglia rosa wearer Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), who was impressed to see the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider pushing a big gear on the final climbs of stage 3.
If anyone knows about turning a big gear it’s Ganna.
“I saw Remco with really amazing legs on one of the last climbs. I turned to see him, and he had a big gear in the front, a 53, and I thought he must have amazing legs,” Ganna said.
Evenepoel is making his grand tour debut at the Giro after nearly nine months away from racing following his crash at Il Lombardia in August.
The rising Belgian star is currently the best placed of the pre-race GC favorites after three days of racing at just 20 seconds off Ganna’s pink jersey, and is equal on time with his Deceuninck-Quick-Step teammate João Almeida, who was fourth overall last year.
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 10, 2021
With a mountainous day on the bike between Piacenza and Sestola ahead of the riders on stage 4, Evenepoel could well be within a shot of slipping into the maglia rosa by the end of Tuesday.
However, Deceuninck-Quick-Step is keen to impress that it does not want the responsibility of the race lead too early. Instead, the team would prefer for a breakaway rider to pick up the mantle.
“For us, that pink jersey is not a goal now because you have a podium ceremony and everything that comes with it,” sports director Klaas Lodewyck told Belgian newspaper Het Niewsblad.
“This is not a blessing for either Remco or João. Today, that pink jersey is not an end in itself, it is much too early to think about it. If this situation happened in the third week, it would be a bit different, of course, but today we would not regret a long attack.”
The stage is not overly concerning for the overall contenders, but a second-category climb, which tops out just three kilometers from the finish, is likely to thin out the bunch. A brute of a rider and far from a mountain goat, Ganna is not overly worried about extending his term in the pink jersey. Keeping his GC teammates safe is the aim of the game.
“For me, it’s hard tomorrow, but I will try to defend. We know we have two big leaders in the team and we will have to try to support them,” said Ganna.
“It’s an amazing jersey and it’s really special. I hope to conserve it another day, but I know it is really hard. If I lose it, I am easy without a problem.”
Ineos Grenadiers’ GC leaders have kept a relatively low profile since the opening time trial on Saturday. Pavel Sivakov is the best-placed of the two as things stand, with a 37-second gap to Ganna, while Egan Bernal has a little more ground to make up at 42 seconds back.
Bernal came into the race with a level of uncertainty around his form after two months without racing and a lingering back problem that dogged him throughout last year. Though there has been little to truly test the major contenders outside the TT prologue, Ganna is confident in his leader’s form.
“Egan is going really well in the head and also with the legs. Tomorrow is not my ride, it’s a ride for Egan and we are supporting him,” Ganna said.