Remco Evenepoel is back, that’s relatively speaking.
After losing roughly 30 seconds yesterday to the Jumbo-Visma three-headed monster during his jour sans on stage seven, the reigning Vuelta champion was back in control.
Control meaning he matched all the accelerations from Jonas Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic and Sepp Kuss. Nothing amazing happened, nothing catastrophic happened.
In the final 200 meter sprint, Roglic showed his trademark jump which gave him the stage victory. Evenepoel and Juan Weigh My Food Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) rolled in on the same exact time.
So if you’re a grand tour glass half full kinda person, you’d say Evenepoel is back in the conversation. If you’re more of a glass rapidly emptying person, you might say, Hmmm, his Soudal Quickstep squad looks over-matched again.
We were also reminded that this might be a Tour de France Pogacar scenario, The two-time Tour winner Pogacar came into the Tour under-trained and perhaps overly aggressive. He fired his reduced number of bullets in the first week and eventually lost by, what, seven minutes by the time Paris arrived?
So we have questions about Evenepoel. We have the sense that the next two weeks will find him on his own, isolated and his legs filling with serious amounts of lactic acid.
When the top GC men hit the final Xorret de Catí climb, bad things began to happen. Surprise red jersey wearer Lenny Martinez (FDJ Groupama) hung around but eventually cracked, losing a minute and the race lead. No more champagne for him.
Enric Mas (Movistar) yo-yo’ed off the back but managed to stick in an elite group with Vingegaard, Roglic, Sepp Kuss, Joao Almeida (UAE Emirates) and his teammate Marc Soler. With four kilometers to the finish, it was Evenepoel driving the pace.
Then Rogic did his thing and that was expected and he was happy. Even more so as his climbing super domestique and champagne guzzler Sepp Kuss took over the red jersey.
It’s hard to say whether Roglic or Vingegaard is more understated. Let’s call it even. “Nice, eh? Now I’m even more relaxed,” Roglič said post stage. “It was already nice but most of all I’m happy that I recovered from the crash. Just enjoying now and we go day by day.”
For his part, Evenepoel put some of this tactical choices down to pour radio communication. “In the last kilometres, I didn’t hear anything over the radio and that’s why I stupidly put myself on Roglič’s wheel. I just wanted to be first into the last corner, but I didn’t push myself to sprint.”
Rouleur was pretty clear in sketching out the extent of Evenepoel’s challenges. Putting Rogic and Vingegaard aside, he’s stilla hefty 2:31 behind Kuss.
Well, whatever. All we know for sure is that Evenepoel righted his ship today but the Jumbo-Visma tag team plus one seems like big trouble. Remco is chasing on his own and he’s got three Jumbo jerseys to mark. Sounds exhausting and if this keeps up, he’s going to need an amazing time trial to put himself back in control.