Remco Evenepoel says he didn't want to explode on the final climb chasing the late attacks by some of the other race favourites on stage four of the Giro d'Italia 2021, but is happy with how he performed despite losing time.
Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) had almost his entire team on the front of the peloton for the final 35km of the race to try and bring the gap down to the leading riders in the breakaway which went on to take the stage and the pink leader's jersey.
The 21-year-old Belgian lost 11 seconds alongside pre-race favourite Simon Yates (BikeExchange) to other general classification riders Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo), Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).
Despite the time loss, Evenepoel only dropped a place in the GC to another favourite in Vlasov with the two young riders sitting in seventh and eighth respectively.
Speaking after the stage, Evenepoel said: "The final climb was a tough one and the weather didn’t help. The effort I had to do was a short and intense one, something that I didn’t do for some time now, and I think I managed it well.
"When the others attacked, I didn’t want to explode and rode at my own pace. I think I managed it well, losing just a few seconds. My body needs to get used to this kind of racing again, but overall, I am satisfied with this stage. A big thanks to the boys for protecting me today."
Deceuninck - Quick-Step no longer have the luxury of a co-leadership though, as last year's standout rider, João Almeida lost 5-58 to the eventual winner, Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) and now sits in 42nd place at 5-48 down on new pink jersey Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation), and over four minutes down on many of the GC contenders.
This, if anything, has made the race more simple to approach in a way for the team with sports director, Klaas Lodewyck being left content at how the day went.
"We knew it was going to be a very hard day for everybody and the goal was not to lose too much time, which we succeeded with Remco," Lodewyck said. "We will try to recover now from this effort, hopefully, we’ll have an easy day tomorrow and we’ll then see what we can do in the next stages."
The fifth stage of the 104th Giro is absolutely pan-flat with just 200 metres of elevation gain. All being well in the bunch it is likely to be a quiet day with a bunch sprint at the end, but could be tricky if the wind picks up over the 177km between Modena and Cattolica.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1