Remco Evenepoel has questioned his ability to compete on steep climbs, after the third stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on Friday hampered his general classification challenge.
The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider spent the first two days of the Valencia race top of the GC, but while climbing Alto Antenas del Maigmó, he finished 41 seconds behind stage winner Alekandr Vlasov. The Bora-Hansgrohe rider eventually came out on top overall at the end of the five-stage race.
Though he won the young rider's classification, won his first stage race of the season and finished second overall, Evenepoel recognises he needs to improve on his climbing strength.
“I’ve had some difficulties on such climbs already," Evenepoel said after the race on Friday. "It's a bit of a shame that I lost the yellow in the last kilometre on Friday.
“I think I just have to accept what happened this week. I was able to keep up with the rest up to one kilometre to go. There’s no shame in that.”
Speaking after the race, the 22-year-old referred back to previous races where he also struggled with steep inclines, though he isn't especially disappointed when considering Alto Antenas del Maigmó constituted ten kilometres of climbing.
"Steep slopes like Friday's, that's still a question mark. When did I fail? In Portugal two years ago when we arrived at Malhão in the Tour of the Algarve which I won."
He added: “Take the Zoncolan [Giro d'Italia] for example. I was up there with the rest until the hardest part of all. So there are question marks.
“But I think I showed the team I am useful in other areas. Like in the lead-out, I’ve done that three times here and we’ve won twice.
“We still have to work on those steep slopes, because you get those too in the Basque Country, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I think if I'm in top shape, 110 per cent, I should be able to survive those hurdles more easily."
Despite losing his opening race of the season, Evenepoel is still hugely encouraged by not only his performance but also the team's. The Belgian helped support team-mate Fabio Jakobsen to two stage victories and the points classification, while the reaction from his team to adversity is another positive he takes away from Valencia.
“Overall I think the team deserves a nine out of 10. We got three stages out of a possible five, and second in the GC standings and the BYR jersey and the points jersey for Fabio too.
“For the results: eight out of 10. For the work I've done for Fabio: maybe nine out of 10. Saturday was a chaotic finish and we lost the sprint due to minor details. Today [Sunday] we did our job perfectly. I think we reacted well to Saturday’s mistakes.”
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