Stage 8 of the Vuelta a España became a classic case of a half-empty/half-full glass for Remco Evenepoel as the Belgian champion celebrated a return to full climbing strength for himself and his Soudal-Quickstep team, but regretted missing out on a second stage win.
After losing time to the Jumbo-Visma contenders on stage 6’s summit finish in Javalambre, 48 hours later on the Xorret de Catí, Evenepoel looked to be in top condition, chasing down Jumbo-Visma attacker Sepp Kuss and setting the pace in a tiny group of favourites for most of the hard part of the ascent.
However, after a fast descent, Evenepoel was then roundly defeated by Primož Roglič in the finish line in the small group sprint and had to settle for second behind the Slovenian.
Victorious at Arinsal on stage 3 in a similarly reduced dash for the line, Evenepoel said afterwards that a lack of information over the race radio had shredded his motivation to go for a second triumph in less than a week.
“I didn’t know we were sprinting for the win,” he said afterwards. “I thought the break was still ahead.”
“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.”
Evenepoel lives nearby and although he was not familiar with the Cati climb itself, he knew plenty of the earlier ascents from his regular training rides, making the defeat harder to digest.
“These are my ‘home roads’, he said, “so I was very motivated and I was going much better than before. I think I could have won.”
However, despite his evident disappointment, Evenepoel was quick to joke about the setback, probably because there had been so many positives for him to take away as well.
“Whether I’m angry with [Soudal-QuickStep sports director] Klaas Lodewyck for the lack of communication? Yes, I’m going to send him home,” Evenepoel said with a grin.
However, there were too many positives for Evenpoel to be upset for long, particularly after his 30-second time loss to Roglič and Vingegaard at Javalambre now being superseded with a blisteringly strong ride on a very difficult climb. Xorret de Catí was so steep that several Belgian media outlets compared it to the much-feared Muy de Huy back home in the Ardennes, ‘only three times as long.”
“I didn’t know what pace I was going, because I didn’t have a power meter. So it was a whole day based on feeling,” he…