Remco Evenepoel has declared himself out of contention for the overall victory at the Giro d'Italia, having lost more time on stage 14 and admitting his form hasn't recovered as well as he had hoped, adding that he no longer needs protected rider status from Deceuninck - Quick-Step this Italian Grand Tour.
"Maybe my body is not what we had hoped before," Evenepoel said after slipping further down the GC, now eighth and nearly four minutes behind Egan Bernal, on the Monte Zoncolan.
"I felt when climbing the steeper gradients that my legs were deflated. Maybe my body is not yet what we had hoped for, in terms of performance. I lose another minute and a half to Bernal but on the other hand, I am still in the top 10."
There had appeared to be some tension within the Deceuninck - Quick-Step camp between Evenepoel and João Almeida, as both riders vied for top billing in the Belgian's team squad, but now the young Belgian says he no longer needs his team-mates to sacrifice themselves for him.
“I'll try to fight for that every day, but my team-mates don't really have to worry about me anymore. João Almeida or whoever wants to attack, they can certainly do that. Today I felt that it is getting heavier and heavier and that my long break [while out injured] is taking hold. ”
Evenepoel says he knew he would suffer up the gradients over 20 per cent on the final climb to the finish, and that he will need to continue his rehabilitation from injury if he is to re-find the form that saw him burst onto the WorldTour scene over the past couple of seasons.
“I lasted a long time, but if the power is no longer there at a certain point, then it is no longer there. See, I knew I was going to suffer in that explosive last two kilometres," Evenepoel explained. "I still have to work very hard on that and it will take time to improve in that area. But we know that and we have patience."
The 21-year-old remains optimistic, however, and think's he'll go better on the queen stage on stage 16 next week.
“With three long tempo cols, less steep. In principle, that should suit me better,” he said.
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