Deceuninck - Quick-Step refused to get carried away after Remco Evenepoel's strong opening week of the 2021 Giro d'Italia and will now not panic after the young Belgian dropped down the general classification after struggling on stage 11.
The Belgian outfit says their 21-year-old star could afford to lose time, slipping down to seventh in GC having been trailing Ineos Grenadiers' Egan Bernal by only a handful of seconds, and now hope he can survive the tough mountain stages ahead and make it to Milan.
“We had calculated that Remco could lose time. In 2019 he raced the Adriatica Ionica Race. He won a stage there but there was also a stage with three gravel sections where he lost minutes," Patrick Lefevere told Sporza (opens in new tab).
"You must not forget that a few years ago Remco was still a footballer, while the Colombians are used to racing over such terrain. Our team was also too nervous and at the front way too early, perhaps there was some stress.
"And of course, Ineos Grenadiers also saw on television that it was not easy for Remco so they posted Filippo Ganna upfront. We would have brought Evenepoel back [if not for Ganna]...perhaps his loss of time is a combination of a bad day and a lack of technical ability [over the gravel]."
Despite the interest in Evenepoel after he rode himself into second place on GC in just his first week back racing since crashing at Il Lombardia in August 2020, combined with the 2021 Giro being his debut Grand Tour, Lefevere says the team never got over-excited about the youngster's prospects.
“We didn't know how he would react to the rest day. No, there is no excitable atmosphere here. Journalists don't like to hear that, but to be honest, I never participated in the euphoria. It was eleven beautiful days but we have our feet on the ground," he said.
As for what they hope for the rest of Evenepoel's race, sitting in seventh place overall and 2-22 down on Bernal, it's hoped he can make it over the tough mountain stages to come before potentially challenging for the time trial victory on the final stage 21 in Milan.
“We will see how he digests the stages of Saturday, arriving at the Zoncolan, and Monday [the queen stage 16]. Those are the two toughest rides. After that, it is hoped that he will get to Milan without much damage. It would be nice if he could win the time trial there," Lefevere explained.
“However, we started without any expectations for him. And it stays that way. Moreover: when he is finished, he's gone. When Remco is empty, we take him off the race. If he is not finished we will go to Milan and we hope that he has learned a lot along the way. ”
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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