Nine days after being forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia with a case of COVID-19, World Champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep) has been given the green light to resume training. He took to social media to express his feelings, describing leaving the race while in the leader’s jersey and as one of the main favourites to win the general classification as “definitely one of the hardest setbacks in my still very short career”.
Evenepoel’s main previous setback was a serious crash in the 2020 Il Lombardia that left him with a fractured pelvis that took months of rehabilitation.
The Belgian posted a lengthy statement on his Instagram account, addressing the cruel accusations from certain individuals that he left the race because he was afraid he might lose the race.
“Leaving the race with a COVID-19 infection was a very brutal end of what could have been a beautiful story,” Evenepoel wrote. “[Six] months of full preparation for only this race. Sacrifices, long days in the rain, long periods away from home. Everything was going according to plan but that is how sport goes. Ups & downs are part of our job and I can accept that without any problem at all.”
Evenepoel launched into the Giro d’Italia after an impressive early season that included the overall win at the UAE Tour, two stage wins, second overall and the mountains and youth classifications at the Volta a Catalunya and a successful defence of his title in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He won the Giro d’Italia’s opening time trial and wore the maglia rosa for three days before ceding the jersey to breakaway rider Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) on stage 4.
While he won the stage 9 time trial and moved back into the maglia rosa, his performance was nowhere nearly as dominant as expected, and he won by only one second over Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers).
Despite the rider being visibly ailing during the post-stage interviews, when news came that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to leave the race, there was criticism from cycling fans and, reportedly from Slovenian national coach Martin Hvastija who suggested that Evenepoel left the Giro because he didn’t have a three-minute lead on his rivals.
“What is hard to accept is all the fake and negative comments I got after having to leave the race,” Evenepoel wrote on Tuesday. “I am not the type of person that is going to hide or is afraid of losing. So this is for those thinking that: The last days were emotionally very hard because of these comments….
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