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What Does Evenepoel’s Covid Withdrawal Mean?

106th Giro d’Italia 2023 - Stage 8

If the post-victory smiles in the Evenepoel camp seemed a bit wan following his unexpectedly narrow victory in the Giro d’Italia’s stage 9 time trial, they turned completely upside down a few hours later when it was announced that the Soudal-Quick Step superstar had contracted Covid and would retire from the Giro immediately. Evenepoel may have enjoyed the satisfaction of making good on his Mother’s Day promise to his mom to win the stage, and probably was happy to see his wife and parents by the roadside ready for a break in the action together. So the blessing in disguise is in having his closest companions there as the disappointment set in and took away his Giro d’Italia.

Sucks, for sure. But that’s cycling. Tell it to Giulio Ciccone.

But with Evenepoel being who he is, and the Giro being his main goal for his rainbow-clad 2023 season, what are we to do with this information? Lots of things. Here are a few thoughts.

Did This Explain His Meh TT?

I’m going with probably not. He came out too hot and it cost him. An old storyline in the time trialling world. Also he had a not great week going. More on that in a moment. But if he has Covid, that doesn’t mean he has symptoms. Might have hurt but the simpler explanations are right before our eyes.

Is This Messing Up the Giro?

I’m going no! Continuing on his TT form… the bruises from his Stage 5 crashes could also be an explanation for what happened in Cesena today. So it’s worth wondering, are we sure he was set up to win the Giro? I’m not. Not at all.

The good news is that Evenepoel’s inability to stay at his best probably means that he wasn’t going to be the story, at least not compared to the other contenders, several of whom have set themselves up perfectly and are primed to push on. Leading the charge is (obviously) Primož Roglič, who maybe we need to stop and remember was one day away from a Tour de France win (I know) and has been held back from greater glory by crashes, begging the question, how great is he when healthy? The answer has often been, and will likely be again, pretty great. Like, proven, aggressive, smart and all the things you want in a rider great. If you want to chalk up his slim deficit today to Evenepoel’s struggles, fine, but he also only lost 16 seconds to Geraint Thomas. This was no fluke.

Thomas, Hart and Roglic on the march
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