We haven’t seen much of Remco Evenepoel so far in this Giro d’Italia. The King of Belgium, the next Eddy Merckx, or just plain old Remco – take your pick – sits perfectly positioned eleven seconds behind Pink Jersey and race leader Atilla Valter, and does nothing. Attentive and poker faced. The precious cargo ferried by his Deceuninck Quickstep team.
At this point, eight stages in, it’s textbook Grand Tour leadership. Considering the guy is twenty-one years old, in his first Grand Tour, and hasn’t raced a bike since a horror crash nine months ago, this is startling.
Except it’s Remco. Maybe the most talented, most super of all the young stars currently gracing our favourite sport. So it’s also entirely unsurprising.
We can only assume, bar a few years plying his trade as an up-and-coming potential pro footballer in his teens, he’s been preparing for this moment his whole life.
Eye witnesses present in that Flandrian hospital at the turn of the millennium will confirm, no doubt, that he emerged from womb to world, had a quick cry, and then crisply and confidently informed those present that he’s taking each day as it comes, the sensations are good, and he wants to thank his team (mum and dad) for positioning him so well today.
In word and deed, he might be the most pro cyclist of all the pro cyclists.Embed from Getty Images
At the end of a medium mountainous day today, at the town of Guardia Sanfromondi in Campania, he finished snug, and safe, among a tight phalanx of fellow GC contenders; Bernal, Yates, Carthy, Vlasov, Martin – all were secure.
Atilla Valter, our Pink Jersey, remained equally snug. Shepherded beautifully all day by his Groupama-FDJ team, who ensconced the young Hungarian in a fourteen-legged flock of armour, he didn’t put a foot wrong.
Caleb Ewan, yesterdays winner, abandoned. Off the back when the road went uphill, he will rest his legs for le Tour de France.
The Stage win, meanwhile, had been seized several minutes earlier by young Frenchman Victor Lafay, of Team Cofidis. The perennial French team claiming a first Giro stage win since 2010. Lafay was part of a nine-man breakaway who cohered beautifully for a hundred kilometres, before ruthlessly setting about each other.
Victor Campanaerts (two Victors in a single break…stat!), Alexis Gougeard, and Giovanni Carboni all struck out variously for the win, but it was the ruddy faced boy-man Lafay who had the legs.
The next, next, next big French hope?
Tomorrow, more mountains, through the central Italian region of Abruzzo. Remco will hope we barely see him again. From there, a flatter, more civilised route on Monday and it will be job done, for now, having raced more days in succession than ever before in his short career. With Tuesday, comes a rest day.
From there, a mere eleven stages to go.
And because it’s Remco, he could achieve literally anything.
(Top Image: Granada, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)