Vuelta a España: Remco Evenepoel keeping cool under early race heat
Belgian star says it was 'mission accomplished' in first major GC tussle at the Spanish grand tour.
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LAGUARDIA, Spain (VN) — Remco Evenepoel slipped into an ice bath at the end of Tuesday’s first heated GC battle in what was a perfect symbol of his Vuelta a España so far.
Keeping cool is the name of the game for the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl star in the early days of his Vuelta debut, even if valuable time bonuses came into play among the GC favorites.
Primož Roglič won stage 4 in an explosive display of raw power as well as took 10 seconds in finish-line bonuses and three more in a special time prime at the top of the final climb. Evenepoel missed out on all those bonuses but safely finished in the lead select group of 12 riders to finish eighth on the stage and climb into sixth overall.
“It went well. I’ve only lost bonuses, but that’s part of a grand tour,” he told Wielerflits at the team bus. “I would rather have taken some bonuses too, but you can’t take everything in life. The most important thing is that I didn’t lose any extra seconds.”
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All eyes are on Evenepoel during this Vuelta, and a fleet of Belgian journalists have followed him from the three opening stages in the Netherlands to Spain.
The first full week on Spanish roads includes three stages in Spain’s Basque Country, where Evenepoel confirmed his budding superstar status with solo victories at the Clásica San Sebastián, first in 2019, and again this summer.
Evenepoel: ‘Mission accomplished’ in first uphill fray
On Tuesday, the Belgian outfit raced to back world champion Julian Alaphilippe for the stage win, but the Frenchman couldn’t match the searing power of Roglič.
Evenepoel followed the wheels, and made sure a gap didn’t open up between him and the leading riders.
The 22-year-old rode in with the first wave, while riders like Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) ceded seven seconds after the race jury ruled there was a big enough gap at the line of the steep wall finale to warrant time differences in the leading group.
“A full kilometer uphill is very intensive and specific. It’s something I haven’t trained for in a long time, but I had to be with it and not lose any time,” Evenepoel said.
“I think there [was] a gap behind me. And that is the danger of these arrivals if things go very fast. But the mission was successful,” Evenepoel said as he jumped into the ice bath. “We wanted to try and win with Julian Alaphilippe, but if you don’t have the legs … It was very hot at the end and the whole day was very fast. That didn’t make it an easy day. With a view to Wednesday and Thursday, that will still be a factor.”
Wednesday’s lumpy profile is eerily similar to the Clásica, so will Evenepoel make a move?
So far he’s been cooling his jets, but he’s already shown he won’t be letting down his guard, either.