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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Can Remco Evenepoel keep GC bid alive after losses on gravel?

The Belgian star lost more than two minutes on the gravel stage to Montalcino, can he bounce back? Or did he lose all chances?

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Grand tour racing can be cruel, as Remco Evenepoel found out Wednesday.

After a strong opening week of the Giro d’Italia, the young Belgian hopeful was left asessing the damage to his GC challenge after suffering badly on the Tuscan gravel roads.

Also read: Giro d’Italia: Remco Evenepoel slips back, but not out of pink jersey quest

Evenepoel fought on valiantly right to the line, but he ultimately lost over two minutes to Egan Bernal and slipped down the standings from second to seventh.

Is it a sign of what is to come for Evenepoel or was it just a blip in his GC bid?

Sadhbh O’Shea: There’s still fight in the dog

Wednesday’s gravel stage to Montalcino was the first major setback for Remco Evenepoel, but that is all that it was. A setback.

It is all too easy to write off someone after a difficult day, but for a rider who is making his grand tour debut after a long period without racing, there were always going to be sticking points.

The stage immediately following the first rest day was destined to be one such moment. Added to that was his evident discomfort on the gravel and Wednesday was always going to be a tough day for the young Belgian.

Also read: Giro di Hoody: Egan Bernal delivers message to Remco Evenepoel, rivals

In the rollercoaster that is a grand tour, there are always going to peaks and troughs in performance. All a rider can hope for is that their bad day won’t put an and to their overall ambitions.

The decision by Evenepoel and the team not to recon at least a few of the gravel sectors, probably didn’t help them in their endeavor to limit time losses.

When the dust finally settled, Evenepoel had lost just over two minutes on the pink jersey of Egan Bernal. While it might seem significant, and it’s no small time-loss, it does not mean that his GC fight is done and he can take confidence that it wasn’t much more.

Evenepoel is in seventh place overall at 2:22 behind Bernal and just over a minute off a podium position. There is still everything to play for in the second half of the Giro d’Italia, with a lot of mountain kilometers yet to ride.

Just as Evenepoel had a bad day, his rivals can also suffer difficult days that he will be able to capitalize on. The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider can also be safe in the knowledge that his TT skills are good enough that he should be able to climb several GC positions on the final day.

For now, he needs to dust himself off and focus on what is to come.

Andrew Hood: A top-5 would be a victory

Will Remco Evenepoel end up with a podium in Milano? After watching him struggle Wednesday, probably not.

For a rider who hasn’t raced in nearly 10 months, the Belgian phenom has been nothing short of impressive so far through this Giro. After being sidelined since August with career-threatening injuries, the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider was knocking on the door of the pink jersey until the wheels came off the cart on the gravel roads of Tuscany.

Also read: How far can Remco go?

It’s no mystery why he felt uncomfortable on the tricky descents Wednesday, but we also saw him at his most vulnerable when Ineos Grenadiers piled on. Will he rebound? Most certainly. Will he end up on the podium? Probably not.

Evenepoel has never raced more than seven straight days before coming into this Giro. His future is unlimited, and the DQS staff are not putting unrealistic pressure on his young shoulders.

A strong time trial could bump Evenepoel up the GC in Milano, but it’s highly unlikely he will be able to mount a serious pink jersey challenge in the deep mountains. Remco will have a target on his back, and all the climbers, not just Egan Bernal, know they have to get rid of him.

Considering where he was lying in a ravine last August, arriving in Milano will already be a victory for Evenepoel. A top-5 would be incredible and is still possible. Talk of winning is fantasy, at least if Bernal’s back holds out.