Remco Evenepoel had an active day out in Belgium on Wednesday. He was in multiple breaks, warned for pushing another rider, off the front, struggling to hold onto the decisive move, and then boxed out in the final sprint.
At the end of Brabantse Pijl in Overijse, after finishing sixth, the 22-year old was magnanimous in defeat: "In the end I didn’t really have the legs to win today."
The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider certainly looked good all day, but was constantly working on the front, which may have counted against him in the end. Crucially, he was also outnumbered in the move, the sole Quick-Step representative in a group of seven which contained three, yes three, Ineos Grenadiers riders.
"Ineos, what can you say, strongest team, three guys in the front," Evenepoel explained afterwards. "When they let one one guy go like this and you jump behind and they jump on your wheel, you cannot really do anything. It was really hard."
That is exactly what happened in the final kilometres, as Magnus Sheffield attacked and soloed to victory, while the remaining four non-Ineos riders were powerless to do anything.
Evenepoel looked well positioned to sprint for the podium, but was clearly boxed out and forced to brake in the the last 500m, a move which caused Tim Wellens to be relegated from third to ninth.
The former was clearly angered by the move, saying afterwards: "If you do this in a bunch sprint you get disqualified, so I hope they rewatch it because it was really dangerous. If I don’t brake, I crash and a really hard crash. We will see what they do with it."
It was a wet day out in the middle of Belgium, with rain appearing despite it not being forecast, causing some sketchy scenes on the cobbled climbs that featured towards the end of the race.
"I didn’t know today was the cyclocross at Overijse, I thought it was the road race, but it looked like a cyclocross race today," Evenepoel quipped. "It was really slippery today, it was a big task to stay on the bike and not crash."
The young Belgian appeared to question Sheffield's aptitude, before immediately rowing back on his comments, but was full of admiration for Ineos, as they appeared to race like Quick-Step in previous years.
"I’m not sure the strongest rider won... probably yes because if you can still attack like this you are still strong, but for sure the strongest team won," he said. "When you are three guys out of seven, you are the strongest team."
We are unlikely to see Evenepoel in races with more cobbles than Brabantse Pijl, however, he explained, so do not expect to be watching him on the Oude Kwaremont or the Muur van Geraardsbergen anytime soon.
"On the cobbles I was not really comfortable," he said. "Epic day. I do not really like to do the Flemish classics, there are too many cobbles."
He will be one to watch at the upcoming Ardennes Classics, however.
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