Yves Lampaert has filled many roles over the years at Soudal-QuickStep: classic winner, time triallist, deluxe domestique, lead-out man, on occasion even a sprinter. On Friday evening atop the Alto Colorado, he added press officer to his repertoire, protectively interrupting World Champion Remco Evenepoel just as he had begun to talk reporters through his difficult ascent of the Alto Colorado on stage 5 of the Vuelta a San Juan.
“It’s cold, let him go and wash his face first,” Lampaert called out from the open door of the team van. Evenepoel nodded his agreement, apologised to the reporters and dutifully stepped aboard, taking some shelter from the chill at 2,600 metres above sea level.
The World Champion had already produced something of a false start on the slopes of Alto Colorado. When he ripped confidently clear of the group of favourites a little over 10km from the summit, it initially looked as though Evenepoel was bounding off into a race of his own. The gap yawned open, and Ineos’ pace-making behind seemed merely an exercise in damage limitation.
Barely 2km later, however, the lie of the land would change utterly. Evenepoel clicked down his cassette and relented, allowing himself to be swept up by a reduced chasing group. When Miguel Ángel López (Medellín-EPM) launched what proved the race-winning attack a few hundred metres later, Evenepoel didn’t even try to follow.
Soon afterwards, Evenepoel disappeared from view altogether, unable to track a chase group featuring Filippo Ganna, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Einer Rubio (Movistar) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe). He would steady the ship somewhat on the final approach to the summit, but by then, the damage was done. Evenepoel crossed the line in seventh place, 1:09 behind the rampant López and half a minute behind the chasers.
“I think I had quite strong legs and maybe I felt a bit too good at that moment and I did a bit of a strange move,” Evenepoel said when he emerged from the van once more, now wrapped in a hoody. “I did a stupid move, because in the end, I went for one minute at full gas and then I tried to keep a high speed. But I was alone, so I should have stopped riding immediately.”
There have been times in Evenepoel’s young career – his victory at the 2019 Clásica San Sebastián, for instance – when he has been stronger than mistakes that would have proved ruinous to mere mortals. But while the Alto Colorado’s slopes are relatively gentle, it’s…
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