Remco Evenepoel, so the assumed logic goes, will look to farm out his maglia rosa to a suitable home in the coming days of the Giro d’Italia, perhaps as soon as Tuesday’s rugged run to Lago Laceno.
Then again, it’s never wise to make too many assumptions about the Belgian. He certainly didn’t look like a man in a hurry to hand over the garment when he lifted himself almost languidly from the saddle and sprinted for the bonus seconds on offer a shade over 10km before the finish of stage 3 in Melfi.
The roads through the hills beneath the extinct volcano of Mount Vulture were rendered treacherous by spitting rain throughout the afternoon, and Evenepoel’s Soudal-QuickStep guard had been to the fore on the day’s short, classified climbs in the finale.
Approaching the late intermediate sprint at Rapolla, however, word crackled over their earpieces that Primoz Roglič was now circling behind them with intent. Koen Bouwman duly led out the sprint for his Jumbo-Visma leader, but Evenepoel had been forewarned. He accelerated past Roglič to pick up the maximum three bonus seconds on offer, while the Slovenian had to settle for second place and two bonus seconds.
“We knew there was going to be bonifications, and when they put it so close to the finish line, it’s obvious the bunch will go for it,” said Evenepoel said, who is now 32 seconds clear of João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), with Roglič 44 seconds down in third place overall.
“We initially didn’t want to go for it, but over the radio, they told us that Jumbo were behind us. I was just reacting to them, but in the end, I won, and it didn’t cost a lot of energy. It’s better to take time than to lose time.”
In the grand scheme of things, the seconds themselves count for little, but the very act of beating Roglič in the sprint might be of greater significance for Evenepoel, who prevented his rival from feeding on even a morsel of momentum after a trying start to this Giro.
Given how Roglič’s ability to collect bonus seconds helped to tip the balance in their duel at the Volta a Catalunya in March, this certainly had the feel of a useful psychological victory for Evenepoel, even if he looked to downplay the idea.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, it’s not in my head to play that mind game. If they go for it, you have to follow. I cannot give away three seconds for free. I tried to ride as fast as possible on Saturday for a reason, so it would be stupid to let other GC guys take seconds, especially when it doesn’t…
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