Again in pink after his victory in the second stage of the Tour of Italy, Remco Evenepoel had trouble celebrating on Sunday in Cesena, where he would have liked to take more time from his main competitors.
Imperial in this solo exercise during the first stage, eight days ago in Ortona, the Belgian was much less sovereign this time to win with only a second ahead of Geraint Thomas and two on the other Briton from the Ineos team, Tao Geoghegan Hart.
On a flat course which nevertheless favored him and with a distance (35 km) much greater than that of May 6, the world champion only took seventeen seconds from his great Slovenian rival Primoz Roglic.
In the general classification, he is now 45 seconds ahead of Thomas and 47 over Roglic. A savings far from being ridiculous but which absolutely does not protect him from a poor performance in the next two weeks, after the first day of rest on Monday.
When he cut the line, in the rain and in the cold, the young Flemish did not hide his disappointment.
“It’s not the result I was hoping for. It’s still a stage victory but it wasn’t the best time of my life, that’s obvious,” he admitted without bluntness.
The Belgian knows what he is talking about, he who has finished on the podium in the nine lap times he has contested since 2019.
But this time, draped in his Belgian time trial champion’s jersey, he measured his effort less well than usual, gradually declining after a great start.
“I didn’t manage my time trial well, I started too fast and I had a hard time recovering after the first part. I didn’t stick to the planned plan in terms of watts”, said he lamented before donning the pink jersey after a five-day interim for Norwegian Andreas Leknessund.
Thomas still second
Already in difficulty the day before, Evenepoel ended the week with more doubts than he had started.
Before the Giro, he was betting on the three lap times on the program to make the difference against Roglic, hoping at least to be equal in the mountains with the Slovenian.
His 47-second mattress is less of an advantage than he had hoped, before the terrible third week that awaits the runners in the Dolomites, including a final frightening uphill time trial, two days before arrival in Rome.
“I know that the Ineos team will have a plan to attack me, but I have confidence in my team (Soudal-Quick Step)”, insisted the Belgian who intends to take advantage of the rest day on Monday to rejuvenate, after his double fall in Wednesday’s stage.
The Ineos team for its part once again demonstrated its impressive collective strength on Sunday and has no less than three riders in the Top 10 with Geraint Thomas (2nd at 45 seconds), Tao Geoghegan Hart (4th at 50 seconds) and Pavel Sivakov (10th and first French at 2 minutes 58).
And that whets the appetite of Thomas, winner of the Tour de France in 2018, who intends to get involved in the final fight, despite the disappointment of having come within a second of a first victory in the Giro.
“Being so close to winning… it’s the fourth time I’ve finished second in a Giro time trial, it’s starting to do a lot. But it’s good to be in the game with Tao. It’s promising for the future,” said the 36-year-old British veteran.