Remco Evenepoel had ramped up the Giro d’Italia mind games ahead of the highly-anticipated stage 7 summit finish at Gran Sasso d’Italia on Friday, noting that Primož Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma teammates seem “nervous” and describing himself as “the strongest at the moment”.
Evenepoel didn’t speak for long at the finish of stage 6 in Napoli, simply addressing concerns over his stage 5 crashes by explaining that he had felt better than expected all day.
He later appeared remotely on Eurosport France’s Rois de la Pédale show, taking questions as he was driven in the Soudal-QuickStep team car to their hotel for the night.
“For the moment, I have the impression that he’s a bit nervous,” Evenepoel said in response to a question from Philippe Gilbert about how he sees Roglič, widely considered his biggest rival in this Giro.
“He knows he is 44 seconds behind. So they [Jumbo-Visma] are nervous in the peloton, they push a lot, but that’s a bit the typical style of Jumbo I think.”
Evenepoel carved out that surprisingly big lead with a storming victory in the opening 19.6km time trial, adding a further second at an intermediate sprint the following day.
Otherwise, the pair have finished in the same peloton each day, although it has been a turbulent Giro already, with both riders crashing twice on the wet run-in to Salerno on stage 5, and Roglič crashing again on stage 6.
Evenepoel came through stage 6 confident that his injuries – which include blows to his sacrum and bruising on his back – will not hold him back, and was forthright in assessing his status in the race.
“I think after the time trial, and also stage 4, for me, I am the strongest at the moment,” Evenepoel said, stage 4 being the chaotic day that saw him isolated but comfortable.
“In the second week and third weeks, things will move, the legs will be different, but for the moment it’s the ideal scenario for us because in [the Volta a] Catalunya I was behind, but now I’m 44 seconds ahead of him, so for us, there is no stress. There’s more stress for them, I think.”
Evenepoel had warned that the second day after a crash can be the worst, but he looked ahead with confidence to Friday’s trio up the Gran Sasso d’Italia, even if he wasn’t really looking forward to the stage.
“Too long,” was his take, noting the hilly 218km route that might be supplemented by a 28km ride down to the team bus, if he doesn’t take up the offer of a helicopter ride to his hotel.
“It will be crazy. I hope the weather is…
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