The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl race leader shook off a crash in Thursday’s stage to carry the red jersey into a decisive weekend in the mountains of southern Spain.
Froome said it’s hard to see anyone knocking him back.
“I haven’t seen any weakness yet,” Froome told VeloNews. “If he carries on like this, it’s definitely his race.”
- Froome out of Tour de France with COVID
- Can another team enter the grand tour winner’s club?
- A record six former winners starting 2022 Vuelta
Evenepoel is racing better than many expected when the Vuelta started in the Netherlands, but now there is no doubt that he’s firmly in control of his destiny.
Despite his fall and the departure of two of his teammates — Pieter Serry due to COVID and Julian Alaphilippe with a crash — Froome said Evenepoel’s team might be the only way to try to rattle the young Belgian.
“There’s not a lot one can do,” he said. “I would say he’s shown such strength at the moment. His time trial was so dominant. Maybe his team has shown a little bit of weakness on the climbs here and there, so the teams that do have climbing option to play, they need to play those cards.
“And sooner better than later. To try to isolate Remco, but he seems to be in great shape and everything is going his way. I really think again it’s going to be about trying to isolate him, and that’s not going to be easy.”
Just a pair of British Grand Tour winners having a chat 👊🏆
A sprint finish is expected today but will the wind play a part on stage 11? pic.twitter.com/QWodq5Fxyp
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) August 31, 2022
Froome said he’s been impressed with how Evenepoel and the Quick-Step team are racing so far in the Vuelta.
“First stage win in the Vuelta, that’s got to be pretty special for him,” Froome said. “He seems to be very calculating, and he’s not getting too carried away with himself yet. It’s nice to see. He’s doing what he needs to do.
“He’s not chasing stages unnecessarily. He’s really focused on the leader’s jersey, which is the right thing to be doing.”
Froome added it’s too early to count out Primož Roglič, the three-time Vuelta winner who’s struggling to match Evenepoel following his return from injury at the Tour de France.
“Not yet. It’s too early to count him out,” Froome said. “He’s incredibly strong, and Remco hasn’t proved himself over three weeks yet. Let’s see how the next week plays out.”
Froome on his Vuelta form: ‘I am not doing fantastically’
Froome continues to struggle with his own recovery from COVID-19 that saw him leave the Tour early as well.
Froome committed to race the Vuelta for Israel-Premier Tech, but the team’s taken a hit with the departure of Michael Woods and Itamar Einhorn. Daryl Impey was second in stage 5 in a high note for the squad so far.
“Me personally, I am not doing fantastically. I’m not yet adaptive to the racing yet,” Froome said. “I hope that switch is going to flip one of these days.”
Froome said the COVID rules and wave of infections are beyond his control.
“It’s hard for me to say if it’s fair or not,” he said. “It’s the system, and it’s the same for everyone.”