Since he took on the red jersey of leader of this Vuelta on Thursday August 25 at the top of Pico Jano, Remco Evenepoel has been advocating calm. He repeats over and over again that you have to keep your feet on the ground. Even after placing Primoz Roglic at 2:41 and Enric Mas at 3:03 in a fiery time trial on Tuesday August 30 in Alicante, he reiterated this need not to get carried away. Even if he dominated this Tour of Spain head and shoulders, he knew he was not immune to a less good day.
This one arrived this Saturday, September 3 on the steepest slopes of the Sierra de la Pandera. This long ascent (8.5 km at 7.6%), classified in the first category, included percentages of 15%. It was on one of them, halfway up the climb, that Primoz Roglic, who is improving as the days go by, placed a sharp attack. Evenepoel does not react. Still sitting on his saddle, he initially remained a few seconds from the Slovenian, before letting go. Realizing his failure, Enric Mas also went on the offensive. Result of the races: the red jersey quickly conceded nearly a minute to the duo accompanied by Miguel Angel Lopez.
As is often the case in such a situation, he clung on and, on the train, ended up finding his second wind, just to regain some time in the last three kilometres. In the end, the leader of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl conceded 52 seconds – including 4 bonus – to Roglic and 20 to Mas, who cracked at the end of the stage. If he remains in the lead of this Vuelta, Evenepoel now has a lead of 1:49 over the Slovenian and 2:43 over the Spaniard.
“It was not my best day”, reacts Remco Evenepoel. “I didn’t have the best legs. That explains why I couldn’t react when Roglic attacked. But I’m still 1:50 ahead of him. So there’s no reason to panic. J I still had some muscle stiffness. It’s normal because I fell just two days ago. Logically, it should be better this Sunday. But hey, I’m not using that as an excuse. I just hope that was my worst day of this Vuelta. Now it’s time for me to recover and survive tomorrow.”
The length of the pass leading to the Sierra Nevada (19.5 km at 7.9%) and the heat will be its two main enemies.