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There’s no stopping Remco Evenepoel.
Despite a disappointing Olympic campaign, the Belgian star roared back into the winner’s circle in dramatic fashion Thursday at the Tour of Denmark.
Evenepoel soloed home to victory on a challenging circuit course featuring several passages over a short but steep climb, and claimed the leader’s jersey in the five-day stage race.
“We knew it was going to be a hard race, so we remained attentive and always at the front, as the peloton was expected to split at some point,” Evenepoel said. “I tried several times, and after one of these attacks I made that small mistake, but luckily, I had an amazing team around me. In the final kilometers, I knew from Michael [Mørkov] that a steep part was about to come and that’s where I attacked and made the difference.”
After the group worked to bring back an early breakaway, Evenepoel attacked the bunch late in the the undulating stage 219km third stage from Tønder to Vejle, bringing some riders with him. A string of short but hard climbs, with grades up to 15 percent, saw the lead group whittled down to about three dozen riders with 50 kilometers to go.
Evenepoel looked poised to ride away but he over-cooked a corner, and he was back in the main bunch. The team worked to bring Evenepoel back to the front, and he turned on the turbos to ride away on a circuit course to win the stage and slip into the overall leader’s jersey.
With a lead of 1:33, the overall victory is all but a wrap for Evenepoel with two more stages left to go. Friday’s stage also sees some undulating terrain, while Saturday’s finale should be a mass gallop for a chance for teammate Mark Cavendish to get a win.
Thursday’s victory was Evenepoel’s first in a road stage since his horrific crash at the 2020 Il Lombardia, when he fell into a ravine and broke his hip.
He won a time trial stage and the overall at the Belgian tour in June, and the win Thursday marks his 17th victory in his young career.
“The GC fight is not over yet, but I hope to have the feeling of today also in the remaining stages and take the jersey home,” Evenepoel said. “I was extremely motivated to win seeing how much the team worked for me and I’m glad of the way it panned out. At the same time, this first victory in a road stage after a very hard period means a lot to me. I had a lot of ups and downs, but I remained patient and confident, and the reward came today.”