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Vuelta a Espana

No gloves, no stress: Remco Evenepoel confident ahead of big Vuelta a España weekend

Vuelta race leader says he's not reading the Belgian papers as he heads into decisive GC weekend.

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JAEN, Spain (VN) — No gloves and no stress, Remco Evenepoel is pedaling into this weekend’s back-to-back climbing stages at the Vuelta a España riding a wave of confidence.

The Vuelta race leader created a stir when he cut his hands in a crash Thursday while opting to race without gloves so far in the Vuelta.

The Belgian star simply stated he prefers to race without gloves in the warm temperatures in southern Spain, but that only kicked off an online debate about whether or not pros should wear protective gloves while racing.

“No gloves, so no issues with my hands,” Evenepoel said at the start. “They really bothered me during the stage [Friday].”

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Evenepoel raced with gloves Friday in the transition stage across Spain’s “sea of olives” but was back to au naturel for Saturday’s steep climbing stage at La Pandera above Jaén.

“I hope I recovered well, and I had a good night of sleep,” Evenepoel said Saturday. “You never know what happens in a three-week race. Yesterday would have been an easy stage, but it was not that easy, because of the stress in the bunch.”

Evenepoel shows no signs of cracking or of the growing pressure to win Belgium’s first grand tour since 1978.

Many inside the peloton admit it will be hard to crack Evenepoel, but he’s intent on riding to protect the red jersey in back-to-back summit finales even if that means he cedes some seconds to direct rivals.

“”I can be happy if I can keep the lead like it is now. I don’t need to win a stage, I already have won. Now it’s important to keep the jersey. Even if I lose 10, 15, 20 seconds one day, I will not be stressed because I have a bit of a cushion,” he said.

“The last 10km today are really hard. Position will be important at the bottom, but the last climb will be decided by the legs.”

Evenepoel not reading the papers

There is a small army of Belgian journalists at the Vuelta to cover Evenepoel’s every move.

Even more will show up if he carries the red jersey out of this weekend and into the closing days of the Vuelta.

Cycling-crazed Belgium hasn’t seen a grand tour winner since Johan De Muynck won the 1978 Giro d’Italia.

Evenepoel is taking it all in stride.

“To be honest I don’t really feel any pressure, because I am hiding from all that,” he said. “I am not reading all the articles and the media stuff that everyone is doing. We are really focused on our race and our performances on the bike.”