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French climber Thibaut Pinot has praised the ability of Vuelta a España race leader Remco Evenepoel, saying that his progression is ‘logical’ and that future battles in grand tours will be a spectacle for the sport.
“It’s not a surprise,” the Groupama-FDJ rider told RTBF.be. “We knew he was capable of doing this kind of feat. I think he’s very close to winning the Vuelta. We feel he’s quite calm in the peloton and I don’t think that much can happen to him from here in Madrid. What he is doing here is the logical next step in his development.”
Evenepoel is part of the next wave of young riders rising to the top in the sport. This year’s Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard is the oldest but is still just 25 years of age. Tadej Pogačar is 23 and Evenepoel is the youngest at 22.
He hasn’t won the Vuelta yet, but providing he stays in red until Madrid on Sunday, he will win what is only his second grand tour.
This echoes the achievement of Pogačar, who did likewise in taking the 2020 Tour. Vingegaard’s triumph this year was in what was his third grand tour.
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“He has an exceptional talent,” said Pinot of Evenepoel. “There are not many who have his talent in the last 20 years. When he goes to line up on the Tour, he will be directly one of the favorites. The future battles with Vingegaard, Pogačar, and Evenepoel will make a lot of people dream.”
Pinot is older, now 32 years of age, but he knows about the pressure of expectation such riders face. He was third in the 2014 Tour de France at 24 years of age and has shouldered the tag of the next big French hope for many years.
That hasn’t quite worked out but he has collected a host of strong results, including three stages in the Tour and two in the Vuelta.
He appears to still be trying to get back to top form after a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year but has shown signs that he’s not far off in the Vuelta. He was fourth on stage 8 and then placed sixth on Thursday’s stage 18 after being away for most of the day in the breakaway.
Speaking to Cyclismactu.net after the stage, he expressed frustration that the gap didn’t grow sufficiently.
“It’s a shame because it’s the only breakaway that doesn’t go to the end in all of this Vuelta … It’s frustrating. But I’m still motivated for the last two stages. Even tomorrow (Friday), it can be difficult.
“We’re going to try again, especially on Saturday with a great, very tough stage. We will do everything to finish this Vuelta well.”