An aggressive ride of the 19-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step neo-pro netted him his best result of the season.
Remco Evenepoel dazzled with a gutsy solo attack on the gruelling ascent which shaped the general classification of the 55th Tour of Turkey after four stages during which the climbers patiently waited for their opportunity while the sprinters shared the spoils.
“It was a very hard day and an extremely tough and steep climb, with punishing double-digit gradients. Add to this also the cold temperatures, the headwind and the snow, and you get a really, really hard stage. Actually, it was for the first time in my career that I raced in such terrible conditions and I am happy with how I managed to overcame this day of suffering”, Remco said at the finish.
Traveling from Bursa to Kartepe, the stage was set to conclude at an altitude of 1300 meters, but its length was shortened by four kilometers by the organisers, under the Extreme Weather Protocol, due to the icy snow falling at the top of the Hors Catégorie climb. Even so, Kartepe – the hardest mountain in the history of the Tour of Turkey – averaged 8.2% over 12.3 kilometers and even featured a section of 27.3%, which poured lead into the riders’ legs.
Following a steady tempo on the opening kilometers of the ascent and several skirmishes which decimated the main group, leaving some 20-odd riders at the front, Remco Evenepoel showcased his talent by taking the race into his own hands and attacking with five kilometers left, an impressive dig that made quite the selection in the bunch, with only three riders capable of going in pursuit of the 19-year-old.
Racing just for the second time at World Tour level this season, Remco kept pushing and ignoring the inclement weather, opening a 15-second lead over the trio behind, who caught him only inside the last three kilometers of the stage, as the gradient stiffened. Felix Großschartner (Bora-hansgrohe) and Merhawi Kudus (Astana) then jumped ahead from this newly-formed quartet and it was the former who claimed both the victory and the leader’s jersey with a late acceleration.
Fourth at the end of the day that saw him stand out from the field, only 16 seconds down on the winner, Evenepoel made a remarkable jump in the general classification, where he lies just outside the overall podium, after giving a beautiful indication of his blossoming talents on Kartepe, one of the most brutal climbs of the entire 2019 cycling season.
“The team did a great job and protected me throughout the whole day and made sure I was in a good position when the road went up. The first two kilometers of the ascent were softer and so I moved in the first ten, because it was much easier to start it at the front as I could immediately find my rhythm”, Remco explained. “Then, with five kilometers to go, I responded to an attack of Conti and found myself alone in the front, so I rode my own tempo without overdoing it, before the others returned. I still had some energy in the legs to respond to an attack in the final, but when a second one came, I couldn’t do it again, because it was really hard on those 15% gradients.”
Saturday’s result is one from which Remco – the youngest rider in the top 10 overall at the Tour of Turkey, which will conclude in Istanbul – will take a lot of confidence, especially as it came against more seasoned riders: “It’s certainly a boost of morale for me, because even though the world’s best climbers weren’t here, there still were many strong guys in the race, and to get such a nice result on this ascent and be up there in the GC, close to the podium, in just my second World Tour race of the season makes me very happy.”
Photo credit: ©Justin Setterfield/ Getty Images