Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) suffered a huge dent to his Giro d'Italia 2021 overall hopes as he lost over two minutes to race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) on stage 11.
The 21-year-old didn't look comfortable on the gravel sectors in the final 70km of the 162km stage in Tuscany as Ineos Grenadiers drove the pace, and was eventually dropped from the pink jersey group on the final gravel sector with around 20km to go.
Initially, his team-mate João Almeida didn't drop back from the GC group to help him, with Evenepoel visibly frustrated, pulling his race radio from his ear as he rode alone. Almeida eventually waited for his team leader with around 13km to go, but Evenepoel was already 45 seconds down on Bernal, who had been just 14 seconds ahead at the start of the day.
That gap continued to grow as Bernal pushed the pace towards the final climb of the day, with the pink jersey almost two minutes up the road as they took on the final climb, which topped out with around 4.5km to go.
Evenepoel looked to be struggling even more on the final ascent, briefly being dropped by his team-mate as they tried to limit the losses to Bernal, who launched an attack towards the top of the climb and rode to the finish alongside Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
As Bernal extended his lead to the other contenders, Evenepoel eventually crossed the line 5-17 down on stage winner Mauro Schmid (Qhubeka-Assos), but more importantly, 2-08 down on Bernal. The Belgian now sits 2-22 down on the race lead, but remains in the top-10 overall in seventh place.
The Giro is Evenepoel's first Grand Tour of his short career, and his first race of 2021 having spent the year recovering from the injuries he suffered in a crash at the 2020 Il Lombardia. He limited his losses well in the first 10 days of the race before the rest day, losing just 14 seconds to Bernal, but will now face the challenge of recovering time in the mountains before the final time trial in Milan.
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