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Vuelta a Espana

How Remco Evenepoel is keeping cool and avoiding COVID-19 at the Vuelta a España

Evenepoel hit a pre-Vuelta training camp in Calpe to get used to Spain's summer heat and humidity.

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CABO DE GATA, Spain (VN) — With temperatures soaring into the high 90Fs and rivals dropping to COVID-19 infections, the easiest part of defending his red jersey at the Vuelta a España for Remco Evenepoel seems to be racing the bike.

Blazing summer heat and a rash of COVID infections is putting a chill on the Vuelta peloton, with GC challengers Simon Yates and Pavel Sivakov both leaving Wednesday with infections.

Behind the scenes, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl has put into place several strategies and protocols to keep Evenepoel in the Vuelta and out of harm’s way.

“We wear a mask, wash our hands, maintain our bubble every day,” Evenepoel said of the ongoing risk of the coronavirus. “The only moment we don’t wear masks is when we get the official whistle from the start and at the table to eat our food.”

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The team is also putting Evenepoel and the other riders in individual rooms, and assigning specific staff members to each rider to minimize the risk of infection.

“Normally on a grand tour we have the families on the rest day, but we banned that,” he said. “It’s really our team bubble. We are wearing masks in the bus, out of the bus, on the massage table.”

Already racing in its third season with the coronavirus, the team is doing everything it can in terms of health protocols to keep Evenepoel safe.

Despite losing Julian Alaphilippe to a crash Wednesday, the safest place for Evenepoel seems to be in the race.

He safely made it through Wednesday’s long transition stage without incident and there were no major shakeups in the overall standings.

Evenepoel training in Spain to acclimatize to the heat

Evenepoel used an ice vest to cool down from Tuesday’s time trial. (Photo: DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Though he hails from Belgium, Evenepoel said he’s not expecting the blazing Iberian sun to be a major issue for him in the second half of the Vuelta.

The first half of the race was contested in The Netherlands before racing across northern Spain, where the Cantabrian mountains were cloaked in fog and mist with cool racing temperatures when Evenepoel attacked into the red jersey.

That’s changed dramatically in the south, with temperatures nearing 100F and humidity also pushing high.

Evenepoel revealed that he did not race after smashing to victory at the Clásica  San Sebastián in late July because he wanted to get used to the Spanish summer heat on his terms.

He retreated to a pre-Vuelta training camp in Calpe along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, where August temperatures were even hotter than they are now.

“That’s why I didn’t want to race ahead of the Vuelta and go into a long training camp around Calpe,” Evenepoel said. “I never had a day under 40 degrees, so every day it was super hot and super humid.”

With Peña Blancas looming Thursday, Evenepoel said he expected the slightly easier and longer climbs in southern Spain in the second half of the Vuelta to be easier to manage in the extreme temperatures.

“The steep climbs are the hardest to deal with in the heat, so what can be advantage from now on is that the climbs are not really super steep,” he said. “For sure, it’s going to be special with the heat.

“We do the normal things, ice, cold drinks, our [ventilated] helmets to lose as much heat off the body as possible.”

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