Giro d'Italia: Remco Evenepoel ready to suffer through 'back pain and big bruises'
After an utterly miserable day and two crashes during stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) appeared upbeat and hopeful about the rest of the race, despite suffering road rash and bruising.
With the rain of previous days disappearing, the Belgian appeared at the start in Napoli in his standard white world champion's kit, rather than the black wet-weather gear he wore throughout Wednesday's sodden stage. He even showed off his football skills on the sign-on podium.
"I slept well," he said, adding that he was "happy with the feeling", despite the marks that had been left overnight.
Evenepoel crashed twice on a wet and slippery stage 5, first in the opening hour when a dog ran into the road, and later on the chaotic run-in to Salerno where he tangled with two Trek-Segafredo riders.
The first crash was said to have left the world champion with pain in his sacrum, while the second spill saw him fall heavily on his right side, suffering a hematoma in the hip area.
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"I have some pain in the back, and some big bruises. I have a big black spot on my back, which is some blood," Evenepoel said on Thursday morning before the stage started.
"It's life, it's racing, we have to deal with it and try to handle the pain as much as possible, and try to relax as much as possible, because I'll need a lot of energy now to heal from the wounds. But until now everything feels pretty well, so I'm happy with the feeling."
Asked if he feared for his Giro, Evenepoel said: "No. Not fear. That's racing. That's life. These things happen.
"There are still some problems in the back area, but I have the impression that when I'm on the bike it's better than when I'm off it, or when I'm sat on a chair. We'll see. We're cyclists, we have to suffer more in certain moments than in others. I have to accept it and push the pedals."
Team doctor Toon Cruyt, who had issued a sobering warning over the potential impact of Evenepoel's injuries on Wednesday night, also cut a more optimistic tone in Napoli on Thursday morning.
"He had a good night. He slept well and the treatments that the osteopath and the kineo did last night worked well. We’ll see how he reacts on the bike but I hope that it will be okay," Cruyt said.
"It depends on how the race develops, if it's like this [dry], then it’s an advantage compared to rain, when there can be crashes - we should avoid that now."
There will be a great deal of intrigue as to how Evenepoel comes through Thursday's stage 6, which features undulating terrain and a couple of categorised climbs but is straight-forward from a general classification perspective. The same, however, cannot be said of Friday's summit finish on the Gran Sasso d'Italia, the first major climbing encounter of this year's Giro.
It is often said that the second day after a crash is often be when the effects are felt most keenly, something Evenepoel himself acknowledged with reference to his crash on stage 12 of last year's Vuelta a España, where he ticked off the flat stage 13 but then lost 48 seconds to Primož Roglič at the Sierra de la Pandera.
"I just hope I don't have a bad day, because last year in Vuelta after two days I had a bad day. We'll see," Evenepoel said.
"Today it's good that it's hard day so the legs will be pushing and turning. First today, then tomorrow."
Cruyt, however, didn't appear overly concerned by the two-day prospect, pointing to Evenepoel's mental strength.
"Usually the first two days are important but if he passes well today, I think he’ll be ok for tomorrow," Cruyt said.
"Often the second the second day is the worst but it’s often also a mental thing. Remco doesn’t have this mental problem. 10 minutes after his crash, he was ready to fight again."