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Remco Evenepoel grumbles at Valenciana gravel sector: ‘Close to mountain biking’

Evenepoel believes stoney Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana finish was a grade too far, Alejandro Valverde finishes fifth with flat tire.

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You know what grinds Remco Evenepoel‘s gears? The decision to include a gravel sector in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana summit finish Friday.

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl captain lost his grip on the leader’s jersey on stage 3 of the Spanish race after coming undone on the tough, stoney, summit finish to Antenas del Maigmó Tibi.

Evenepoel grumbled after the stage Friday that the coarse gravel track was a grade too far.

“It’s always special to have these gravel sections, but it was a bit on the limit,” he said after the stage. “There were quite some rocks. I think it was getting close to mountain biking.”

Also read: Evenepoel put to sword on Valvencia gravel

Evenepoel finished eighth behind stage-winner Aleksandr Vlasov, dropping to second on GC behind the rampant Russian.

Friday’s stage wasn’t Evenepoel’s first tough time on rough surfaces. The young Belgian was also dropped on the sterrato of the so-called “Strade Bianche” stage of last year’s Giro d’Italia, eventually grinding home more than two minutes down on GC rival Egan Bernal.

Evenepoel had scouted Friday’s finish earlier this week, expressing shock at the severity of the stoney strip near the Maigmó Tibi summit. He hadn’t changed his mind after racing the off-road sector Friday.

“For such a hard climb, we didn’t need it. There is one race in the year that is known for its gravel, which is Strade Bianche but on a finish like this, it makes it even harder,” Evenepoel said after the stage.

“It would have been the same if we’d gone up a normal road. I understand if they want to try something new but I think the race didn’t need this gravel section to be harder.”

Evenepoel, who rode his first gravel event at the Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas last fall, said he wasn’t the only one to object.

Also read: Evenepoel on BWR debut: ‘This year to enjoy; maybe next year we race’

“Sometimes in the teams and the bunch, there’s frustration that we go on such small roads that are, I won’t say dangerous, but you cannot win something with it, but you can lose it,” he said. “You can have a flat tire, it’s always a risk.”

Evenepoel’s fears of a flat tire weren’t realized Friday, but one rider who did roll home on empty rubber was Alejandro Valverde. The Movistar veteran finished fifth after riding the final kilometers on a rear-wheel flat.

“Alejandro Valverde managed to finish fifth today in Volta a la Communitat Valenciana covering the last kilometers … with a puncture! The ‘Bala’ has suffered the incident at the beginning of the Antenas del Maigmó gravel section, and has been able to be very close to Enric Mas at the top,” Movistar wrote on social media. 

Mas and Valverde now sit fourth and fifth on GC respectively, with two spinter-friendly stages set to close out the race this weekend.