La Vuelta – Remco Evenepoel praises Alaphilippe: “I haven’t seen many world champions do that…”

La Vuelta – Remco Evenepoel praises Alaphilippe: "I haven't seen many world champions do that..."

The skin reddened by the sun, the hair arranged and the gaze fixed and relaxed, Remco Evenepoel did not look like a man assailed by the solicitations, him the leader of the Vuelta, whose red jersey sat proudly in the room of the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl press officer this Monday, day off. “The team is strong and confident. ” How not to be with such a margin the day before a flat time around Alicante, tailor-made for the fleshy thighs of the former footballer?

From a team accustomed to shining on the classics to a steamroller uphill, the ‘Wolfpack’ succeeded in its transformation, imposed by the profile of Remco, prodigy announced on the three-week events. “It’s a new configuration for us, a bit like an expeditionhe explained during the press briefing organized on this day of rest. We just try to give the best of ourselves every day. We had stages with more than 2000 meters of elevation gain, and one with more than 4000. This weekend was brutal but with the team, we were able to manage it very well. We were ready and focused for that. I think we have to continue with this mentality and this team spirit for the next two weeks.

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I’m looking forward to tomorrow

And that will necessarily involve a top-flight performance in the only individual time trial of this 77th edition. A timer”completely flat“, as the person concerned indicated. “There is just a short climb in the last three kilometers which could hurt, since we will already be very lacticanalyzed the red jersey. I know the course well and have recognized it several times, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s really completely flat, you even go down more than you climb. If the wind is from the front, it will be interesting, even if the legs are not going to appreciate it too much (smile).

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Confidence and an appetite still as significant, despite the specter of the Covid (“He can strike at any time without warning“), it is also the work of a diagram applied to perfection: “Taking time in the first week and tackling the time trial at the head of the general standings is the best thing before arriving at the rest day. We hadn’t planned it of course, but it’s obviously better that way than being two or three minutes behind“And in addition, Evenepoel”recovers well after the difficult stages.”

I hated training on those steep hills, but it paid off

Speaking of a difficult stage, next Sunday’s stage, with the interminable climb of the Sierra Nevada, promises to upset the greatest certainties of the leader of the Vuelta. The Flemish jewel does not hide, even preferring to play the de-escalation card: “Many teams know Sunday’s stage (Sierra Nevada): they were there during the traininghe recalled. We will go through the slope of Monachil, which is a steep and regular climb of 6-7 kilometers, like the climbs of this weekend. Then, the road will drop slightly to the top. The Sierra Nevada is not an extremely hard climb, it is above all very long (19.3 km at 7.9%) and difficult to grasp. But I trained for it all summer long, especially in July and early August. In Livigno, I chained long passes, I am prepared to face that.

Weight less, a more flexible pedal stroke, the Belgian has metamorphosed to play in the court of racy climbers. “Succeeding in climbing very steep climbs like those on Saturday and Sunday does not come by itself. You have to work and get used to that effort, to sitting on the bike with the front wheel almost touching the tip of your nose. It’s a very specific effort. I hate training on those steep hills and I have to say I hated my coaches in my workouts. But in the end, it paid off. I prepared a lot for this Vuelta.”

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If you look at how Julian does it, it’s like being installed in an armchair once in his wheel

Comfortably installed, Evenepoel has long insisted on the importance of his teammates, an image cultivated for several years by his training, which places the collective challenge above personal ambitions. The Belgian still dreams of a stage victory (“my main objective until the finish“) and feels a certain pride when it comes to putting on his precious gleaming overcoat (“I hope to be able to contemplate it at home in a few weeks but there is still a long way to go“), but his speech is invariably conjugated in the plural.

About a certain Julian Alaphilippe, Remco was not asked to summon a few laudatory qualifiers. “When it comes to positioning yourself in the final, like yesterday (Sunday) in the final descent, if you look at how Julian (Alaphilippe) does it, it’s like being installed in an armchair once in his wheelmarveled the red jersey. You just have to follow it and everything will be fine. Doing that stuff with the rainbow jersey… I mean, I haven’t seen a lot of world champions do that for somebody.”

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