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Remco Evenepoel didn’t sugar-coat things after seeing his Tirreno-Adriatico tilt evaporate Saturday.
“Not good enough today,” the Belgian sensation wrote after he lost more than four minutes to Tadej Pogačar in Tirreno’s crucial climbing test.
Evenepoel started the stage within grasp of Pogačar in a sizzling classification clash between two of the peloton’s two brightest young stars.
That nine-second overnight gap crumbled on the first of two ascents of the so-called “Pantani climb” of the Carpegna.
Evenepoel was dropped early and never saw the action again, finishing 4:01 down and sliding from 2nd to 11th in the classification ahead of the final sprint stage Sunday.
“For sure it wasn’t the day I hoped to have,” Evenepoel told reporters Sunday morning.
“It wasn’t the drama like I had in the Giro last year, I could still keep my rhythm. But to race for the victory I needed 30 or 40 watts more on the climbs. On a day where you’re not 100 percent, you can’t just push through that.”
- Pogačar in league of his own in Tirreno climbing test
- Evenepoel carries new confidence through Tirreno bid
The late-race capitulation marks the fizzling of a Tirreno bid that started bright.
Evenepoel lit up the first half of the race. He and Jonas Vingegaard looked the only legitimate threats to Pogačar’s early season stranglehold.
A missed turn while on the attack on stage 5 saw Evenepoel steaming but left him well in podium contention. All he had to do Saturday was mark the moves to secure a top-3 among some of the world’s top GC talents.
“We all know that the two best climbers of last year’s Tour de France are here,” Evenepoel said ahead of the stage Saturday. “I think my only goal and job is to follow them.”
It turns out he didn’t even get as far as following.
Evenpoel was off the back way before Pogačar punched away from Vingegaard, Enric Mas and Mikel Landa for his winning move, slipping out of the wheels when the pace rocketed on the first climb of Carpegna steep slopes.
A rainbow-colored pull from world champ teammate Julian Alaphilippe helped limit the damage, but Evenepoel’s GC challenge was done.
Despite the disappointment, Evenepoel was gracious in defeat.
“Thank you team (riders & staff) for all the hard work and congrats Tadej Pogačar!” he wrote on social media.
Stepping-stone toward Spanish summer: ‘I came here to feel the level and explore everything’
A likely finish outside the top-10 when Tirreno wraps up Sunday will take some sheen off Evenepoel’s 2022 palmarès, but will mark another significant stepping-stone in his career.
Second at Volta a la Valenciana and overall victory at Volta ao Algarve this winter saw Evenepeol more-than live up to the hype heaped on him by Belgian media.
A week in the wheels of riders like Tour de France top-2 Pogačar and Vingegaard at a race as prestigious as Tirreno-Adriatico will make for valuable experience if not standout results.
“I improved a lot in moving around the bunch and downhills. Everything went well in that but yesterday I didn’t have the legs to push how I should be able to push,” Evenpoel said Sunday morning.
“I came here to feel the level and explore everything. On this level, you just can’t have a bad day or you won’t be up there with the best guys.”
Evenepoel’s GC trajectory will trace through Norway and Burgos before a much-hyped start at the Vuelta a España in the summer.
The Carpegna crumble will be distant history by then.