Remco Evenepoel had not ridden a race since his crash at last year's Il Lombardia but still came into the Giro d'Italia 2021 as one of the favourites, and has since backed that up with some excellent displays so far in the race.
Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) sits second overall just 14 seconds behind the race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) as the race headed into the first rest day.
He has taken opportunities to claim bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints on two occasions in the race with the most recent coming on stage 10 yesterday (May 17) when he took one second on Bernal. The race culminates in a 30km time trial, in which Bernal says he needs at least a 90-second advantage to secure victory over the stronger time triallists like Evenepoel and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) who sits in third at 22 seconds.
Speaking in a team press conference, Evenepoel said: "For me, the most important thing is not to lose too much time. So every second we gain is one second less. So this is why we went for the points in the end.
"The fight was quite hard on that road because it was crosswind so we were in a good position and then, in the end, we just went and when you go you can't stop because otherwise you may cause some crashes in the back, but it was fun. It was quite fun to do a small race together with Egan [Bernal]."
Evenepoel came into the race as a co-leader with last year's fourth overall in the Giro, João Almeida, but the Portuguese rider lost a hefty chunk of time on stage four and now plays a vital last support man for Evenepoel in the mountains.
Evenepoel continued: "I think he just had a bad day [on stage four] because of the weather. We saw some other guys as well having an off day with the weather because that day was, sorry for my words, really shit with the rain and the cold and the descends and everything.
"So that's life. It could have happened to me, or can still happen to me. But in the end, what I saw the days after is that he is 100 per cent supporting me. And then everybody can trust him because he's doing his job.
"He's a guy who is there for the big, big mountains and will be there with me to help me to make our dream come true."
This year's Giro is the young Belgian's first Grand Tour, it is also his first time taking a rest day during a race as the longest he has raced before the Giro was the Vuelta San Juan in Argentina.
"Well, I tried before coming here already a bit, some different kinds of rest days and see how I would feel the day after," Evenepoel said, "And doing nothing really doesn't help."
"So we did a small ride of one hour. Just easy, just putting some power in the legs. Not eating too much as well, but not eating too little as well. Just having a good balance between resting, refuelling and warming up for tomorrow, you know, it's quite personal for everybody. But for me, that's how it works best."
The team also took the opportunity to announce that one of their title sponsors since the late 1990s, Quick-Step, has committed to keeping sponsoring the team for another six years after yet more success.
Team boss Patrick Lefevere said one of the main aims now is to try and win the Tour de France with a Belgian rider in the coming years.
Stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia 2021 takes on the tough gravel sections of Tuscany over 162km from Perugia to Montalcino in the traditional 'wine stage' of the race to kick off the second week of racing.
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