An emotional Remco Evenepoel admitted his shock at finishing seventh in the opening time trial at the Giro d’Italia, his first race back after an eight-month layoff due to injury.
The young Belgian of Deceuninck-Quick-Step covered the 8.6km pan-flat course in Turin in a time of 9-06, just 19 seconds shy of stage winner Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).
Evenepoel, who hadn’t raced since his horror crash at last autumn’s Il Lombardia, was only two seconds short of his team-mate Joäo Almeida, but crucially finished way ahead of many other GC riders, the closest being Hugh Carthy, 19 seconds adrift of Evenepoel.
Speaking after the stage to television, 21-year-old Evenepoel said: “I was standing on the start podium with tears in my eyes.
“It was quite a hard way to come back and to start the Giro like this is something I didn’t expect, to get immediately a top-10 spot.
“I feel really happy and for me the most important was to just do a good time trial. I was not thinking about the stage or even the pink jersey. I just wanted to enjoy it and feel the pain again.
“It worked out, I am happy with my race and seventh is just amazing.”
Evenepoel won all four stage races that he competed in 2020 and should his current form be reminiscent of what he produced in the previous campaign, then he will be a major contender for the maglia rosa.
The Belgian has cautioned against his chances in the preceding days, but couldn’t deny that his performance on just his first day of Grand Tour racing sets him up nicely for the forthcoming 20 stages.
“We are here with João and me and I think we are two super good guys,” he added.
“Today we did a good job, and we have already taken around 20 seconds from some favourites.
“That’s a big advantage in a short time trial so we did a good job. Now we have to take it easy and go into the first 10 days without any problems.
“Together, support each other, and as the Wolfpack is known, together we will go as far as possible, we will support each other in good and bad days.”
Stage two should finish in a bunch sprint, but stage three could offer an opportunity for Evenepoel to try his luck in the finale, presenting him with his first opportunity to take the race lead.
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