“The last week of the Vuelta is really much harder than everyone thinks”

If Evenepoel continues on its momentum in week three of the Vuelta a España, the Remco madness will strike in full force. There is no escaping that. Team manager Patrick Lefevere already gives this message: ‘It is far from happening.’

MGSeptember 6, 202203:00

How is Remco Evenepoel doing at the start of the last week in the Vuelta?

Patrick Lefevere: “A minute and a half ahead in the standings is a nice gap. But the Vuelta is far from over. Danger lurks behind every corner. We have already seen that with Julian Alaphilippe who fell and later Remco Evenepoel himself who fell. We have to hope that the team continues to perform at the level of the last few days and that Evenepoel keeps his feet from Sunday in the Sierra Nevada.”

Do you think the teammates still have enough in the tank?

“That is difficult to estimate. The day after the rest day is often difficult for many riders. An advantage is perhaps that it is a flat stage.

“If we are on our gums, then we have already raced more tactically than Jumbo-Visma on Sunday. And then I would have played it even more tactically.”

What do you mean?

“There is a race going on in the race, we have to exploit that. On Sunday I told sports director Klaas Lodewyck that we had to slow down a bit, that we shouldn’t be afraid of Thymen Arensman, who was more than nine minutes behind Evenepoel in the standings before the start of the stage. Richard Carapaz was also in that group, just like that guy who won the Giro (Jai Hindley, MG). Then we did indeed slow down and who immediately started driving? AG2R. They were already there protecting Ben O’Connor’s top ten place.

“We could have done so much. Let the leading group take even more lead, for example. Then those six seconds of bonus from Enric Mas were gone too. You don’t want to be six seconds short in Madrid. In fact, you have to constantly calculate, someone has to constantly look at the rankings to know what we can exploit.”

That’s not easy there in the trailer.

“That’s why there are two of them.”

How strongly do you rate Primoz Roglic?

“Roglic is a cool frog. You see nothing about him. He doesn’t move, he stays calm. He might get a little more nervous if he’s not feeling quite right.

“On Sunday, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, he had a whole team up front. We knew the course, the intention was to make Evenepoel explode on the steepest part. The result was that they all exploded themselves and luckily we still had Masnada and Vervaeke. Masnada could not be of much help because he fell himself, Vervaeke was still able to work a bit.

“And then the eternal question is: should Evenepoel, who is leader in the standings, be in the lead? Or do we play the game with Roglic and say: Mas is on so many minutes, do it?”

“To those who think it has already happened: I can reassure them, it has far from happened,” says Patrick Lefevere.Image Florian Van Eenoo Photo News

Would you like to see Evenepoel speed up a half ascent of the Sierra Nevada?

“It’s always double. Evenepoel is someone who likes to ride at a pace and who doesn’t like the brutal sniffles. I don’t feel his legs. Maybe he thought: I can pressure Roglic. But in the end he still lost sixteen seconds.”

Evenepoel had a lesser day on Saturday. There was not much to see on Sunday.

“It was our fear, after what we saw on Saturday, that he would definitely be in the danger zone if he was hit again. He survived well.”

What is also striking: he looks a lot at his power meter, like Chris Froome at the time, who received a lot of criticism for that.

“They are all looking at the power meter now. Froome started that, everyone has taken over. Evenepoel does that because he does not want to go into the red. He knows his capabilities perfectly, but he should not go overboard. He had gone a little overboard on Saturday, he said. That must have been a confluence of circumstances. His body’s reaction to the abrasions after his fall on Friday. Maybe there was a little fever or his body was out of order in some other way. Or maybe he wanted to react too much to Roglic’s offensive. But in the end Evenepoel is still in the lead.”

He also remained calm when Roglic attacked on Saturday and Sunday. He might have thought: that Slovenian pushes more power here than I do.

“Evenepoel does not see that. And I don’t know what goes on in his head. I don’t ask those kinds of things. Koen Pilgrim (trainer of QuickStep, ed.) checks everything. From here on we must look at ourselves and not at the other. We know who the enemy is and where the danger lurks.”

How tough will that last week be?

“To those who think it has already happened: I can reassure them, it has far from happened. The last week has been much tougher than everyone thinks. There are three tough rides, Saturday is the toughest. It wouldn’t be the first time someone has turned the Vuelta upside down on the penultimate day.”

Tom Dumoulin dropped from place one to place six in 2015 on the penultimate day.

“Voila. Dumoulin is not the only one, but he is a good example. We keep our feet on the ground and save energy where we can. If you want to win a Grand Tour, you have to do it right.”

Is Evenepoel’s course different from last year’s Giro?

“The way he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Clásica San Sebastián has given him confidence. It’s good in the head.

“I think the comparison with last year is made a little too often. As far as I am concerned, 2021 was a lost year, counting from his fall in the Tour of Lombardy 2020.”

He still had mannerisms this spring, waved his arms in the Brabantse Pijl, he made a lot of noise in the Benelux Tour last year.

“He has been sufficiently reminded of that. They see that he is waving his arms. But that, as in this Vuelta, he is much more available to the press than other riders, that is not mentioned. The press can be happy that it is Evenepoel who has the red jersey and not someone else. We held a press conference on the rest day. What else needs to be said? Everyone starts calling and every day it will get worse. I would say: all to Madrid! I was already planning it, whether Evenepoel wins the Vuelta or not.”

Evenepoel after stage 14, on top of the Sierra de la Pandera.Image BELGA

The question of whether Evenepoel can win a Grand Tour, have we already got the answer?

“Suppose he still fails this week, then I already know the story: that he can race for fourteen days, but not three weeks. Let’s just wait for Madrid to answer that question. In any case, he is doing well.”

After the Vuelta, he immediately flies to Australia, where he will already ride the World Time Trial World Championship on September 18. What can we expect at the Evenepoel World Cup?

“Either he is total and he should have saved himself the trip, or he will continue on the euphoria and all he has of fitness from the Vuelta. So you still have riders who get into the winning mood and continue on that momentum. Evenepoel needs to know how he feels on Sunday. Don’t forget the decompression after three weeks of hard racing. I wouldn’t underestimate that.”

After the team time trial you said: Jumbo-Visma is racing on another planet. Is Evenepoel on the right planet to win a Grand Tour?

“I think he is doing very well. And I’ll say it again, for the one hundred and seven thousandth time: he’s still only 22 years old. Let’s not focus on Tadej Pogacar or on the new phenomena Juan Ayuso and Carlos Rodríguez. When you see the revolutions of the young guys who are now breaking through, it’s incredible and beautiful at the same time.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: week Vuelta harder thinks

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