Stage 9) Castel di Sangro - Campo Felice
Italy Sunday 16 May 2021 158 km
Evenepoel shows amazing resilience on rough Giro d’Italia finish
A roller-coaster day in the Apennines with six climbs (four of which were classified) and a two-kilometer gravel roads section just before the finish line, which included some nasty 14% gradients – stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia provided a stern test for all the GC hopefuls, but in the end the gaps were minimal, meaning that everything is still wide open with one stage to go before the first rest day.
The first 60 kilometers were truly insane, with dozens of riders trying their luck and launching numerous attempts in order to go up the road, knowing their chances of making it were pretty solid, given that four of the previous stages went to the breakaway. Once things finally calmed down, 16 men found themselves at the front, but their three-minute gap wasn’t that comforting considering what was to come in the final part of the day. That’s why it came as no surprise that the favourites group managed to pull them back, albeit late, inside the closing kilometer, when they lifted the pace as the steep ramps began pouring lead into the legs of the leaders.
Going into the final ascent, Remco Evenepoel – who started the day in second place – was in an excellent position, thanks to another fine job of his teammates, who worked tirelessly during the stage for him, keeping the Belgian at the front at all times. Unfortunately, an incident at two kilometers to go, just as the small bunch was passing through a tunnel, saw him drop to around 15th position, but Remco mounted a stunning recovery in the final few hundred meters of the stage and finished just outside the top 3, a few seconds down on Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who took the victory.
“The start of the day was very hard, but the toughest moment of the day came on the white gravel roads. I was in a good position in the tunnel, when a teammate of Bernal almost touched his wheel and because of that I lost some places. It’s racing and it happens, but the good thing is that I could gain a couple of positions by the time I arrived at the finish, where I just missed out on the bonus seconds. Fortunately, I didn’t concede that much time, which is good ahead of next week. We can be proud of our work and of how the team rode today”, explained Evenepoel, who is just 15 seconds behind the Giro d’Italia leader.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images