Evenepoel wins Itzulia Basque Country youth jersey
Remco Evenepoel showed endless amounts of guts on what was arguably the hardest day of racing this season so far, one comprising seven classified climbs and over 3500 vertical meters. Relentlessly attacked by his opponents inside the last 40 kilometers of the short stage between Eibar and Arrate, Remco demonstrated both calmness and a clinical mindset, riding at his own pace even when the gap went out as high as 30 seconds and the merciless double-digit gradients of the Basque Country began to bite.
Forced to chase on the descent off Krabelin, which he started with a 25-second deficit on the other GC riders, Evenepoel quickly made significant inroads in the gap and bridged across the leading group ahead of the penultimate ascent. There, the yellow jersey was again put under pressure but he kept his composure and rode with maturity well beyond his years, keeping things together before collecting three seconds at the last intermediate sprint of the day.
On the viciously steep early slopes of the Usartza, all the admirable effort put in up until that point took its toll on the overall leader of the race, who got dropped but continued to fight valiantly. In the closing kilometers, over the top of the hill, Evenepoel managed to reduce the gap to the front group and came home just 24 seconds down on the winner of the stage – a result which saw him conclude Itzulia Basque Country in fourth place, a frustrating five seconds off the podium.
“It was a very hard stage. I didn’t have a bad day, I gave my best the entire stage, but I just missed a bit to be up there with the best guys and fight for the GC victory. It was difficult, especially on the steep parts of the climbs, but I kept fighting and kept believing in myself. I came here wanting to test myself against the Grand Tour contenders and this result is something I can build on in the future. There is some disappointment, as I was so close to the podium, but also some satisfaction, because I’m getting closer to the level I want to be. Maybe in a couple of days I will see things differently, given how tough this race was and the quality of the field here”, said Remco, who became the first Belgian winner of the Itzulia Basque Country youth classification.
Photo credit: ©Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images