As Giro d’Italia contender Remco Evenepoel glided to a halt a few hundred metres after the finish of Naples, within seconds a small knot of reporters and TV had gathered around the World Champion and a protective circle of Soudal-QuickStep staff, eager to gather the first words of the Belgian after the first key test of any lasting effect of his stage 5 injuries.
The omens had been almost scarily good throughout the 162-kilometre stage through the hills surrounding Naples then back down to the seaport. Evenepoel had briefly messed around with a football, in a double nod to his sporting past and the Naples football club’s historic recent league success, at the signing-on podium. Then during the entire, incident-free, stage, he never seemed to be in trouble.
The words of Soudal-QuickStep doctor Toon Cruyt after Evenepoel’s double crash on stage 5 that he would face a difficult day on stage 6 were hard to forget, even if Cruyt was notably more optimistic on Thursday morning following the Belgian’s progress overnight.
As the sun beamed down on the finish on Naples seafront, you could almost sense a collective holding of breath before the Belgian gave his definitive verdict on his first day back from the brink.
When it came after Evenepoel had first swigged from a recovery drink and briefly negotiated with one TV reporter whether he would talk immediately or later at the team bus, it was a fairly resounding thumbs-up. Evenepoel is ready to battle on.
“It was a fast stage, but the team did a very good job, I was able to get home safely, and I was always on the front on the descents. So that’s great, eh?” Evenepoel said.
“My leg was stiff, but I didn’t get dropped. That’s good,” he said with a laugh afterwards.
Fears of what could happen on the second day after a crash, traditionally considered to be the worst, had been allayed somewhat by Cruyt’s comments on Thursday morning that “Usually the first two days are important but if he passes well today, I think he’ll be OK for tomorrow.”.
“Often the second the second day is the worst but it’s often also a mental thing,” the doctor had said. “Remco doesn’t have this mental problem. 10 minutes after his crash, he was ready to fight again.”
Evenepoel himself was even more categorical after the stage 6 finish, saying that he is sure that he will be ok for Friday’s monster mountain stage, which concludes on the summit of the Gran Sasso after 26 kilometres of climbing.
“It [the bad second post-crash day] will not come. It’ll…
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