The story in Saturday morning’s Het Nieuwsblad had raised a smile at first, but by the time Remco Evenepoel hurtled past the finish line in Ortona shortly before 5:00 p.m., you suddenly started to wonder if there was a faint ring of truth to it after all. Nothing about this young man seems to be ordinary.
Unlike the bulk of his rivals on this Giro d’Italia, Evenepoel elected to wear a short-sleeved skinsuit in the opening time trial after wind tunnel testing had apparently demonstrated his own skin was more aerodynamic than the most advanced fabrics. “It is certainly possible that Remco has ‘fast skin’,” the headline had trumpeted.
Whatever it was – the skin, the legs, the bike – Evenepoel was clearly faster than all comers on stage 1 from Fossacesia to Ortona, covering the 19.6km at an average pace of 55.211 kph. He beat Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) to the first maglia rosa of the race by 22 seconds, while Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), the man expected to contest the last one in Rome, has already lost 43 seconds.
This was, by any metric, an outsized performance from Evenepoel. His gifts as a rouleur had already carried him to a European time trial title as a neo-professional in 2019 and they formed the bedrock of his Vuelta a España victory last year, but this display was of an altogether different class.
Evenepoel was tipped by many to be the best of the general classification contenders in this opening test, but few expected him to deliver such a sound beating to Roglič, who conceded over two seconds per kilometre. Fewer again thought he would end Ganna’s unbeaten run in Giro time trials, but he gained over a second per kilometre on him, even though the uncomplicated route seemed to lend itself squarely to a rider of the Italian’s stature and power.
“We knew he was strong but against Ganna, a rider of 85kg and a champion in this exercise, it’s phenomenal,” Soudal-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere said afterwards.
More pertinently with the Trofeo Senza Fine in mind, Lefevere noted that Evenepoel had, in relative terms, given Roglič an even more resounding beating here than he had in the pivotal stage 10 time trial at last year’s Vuelta. “He more or less put him at the same time gap in Alicante, and that was almost twice the distance,” said Lefevere.
Next weekend’s 35km test to Cesena presents itself as a chance for Evenepoel to put an even heftier downpayment on final overall victory, but the Belgian has already…
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