'I made a mistake' – Remco Evenepoel suffers first Giro d'Italia setback

 Remco Evenepoel could not match Primoz Roglic on the final climb of stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia
Remco Evenepoel could not match Primoz Roglic on the final climb of stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia

Past the finish on Fossombrone's Viale dei Martiri della Resistenza, Remco Evenepoel's frustration was palpable. The time lost to Primož Roglič on stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia didn't appear to annoy him nearly as much as the manner of its concession.

When Roglič attacked on the steepest portion of I Cappuccini, his rear wheel seemed to flicker invitingly within Evenepoel's grasp. The Belgian couldn't fight his instinct to reach out and touch the flame, but instead of snuffing out Roglič's attack, he only burnt up his own resources.

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A stalling Evenepoel was even caught and passed by the Ineos duo of Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart near the top of the climb as they bridged across to Roglič. That trio of dangermen would drop into Fossombrone with a 14-second lead over Evenepoel and the rest of the overall contenders.

On crossing the line, Evenepoel was flagged down and asked to wait at the barriers by the podium until it was certain that he had not divested Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) of the maglia rosa. Leknessund would do enough to retain pink from Evenepoel by eight seconds, but Roglič is now just 30 seconds behind the world champion.

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As Evenepoel waited for the all-clear to proceed to his bus, he stood swigging silently on a recovery drink. When he eventually rode off, teammate Mattia Cattaneo drew up alongside him to drape a consoling arm over his shoulder.

By the time Evenepoel began to warm down on his time trial bike outside the Soudal-QuickStep bus a few minutes later, however, his irritation seemed to be easing with each rev of the pedals. When a cluster of reporters was invited forward to hear his thoughts on the day's action, he was already couching the experience as a lesson learned.

"I took 43 seconds a few days ago, so why should I be unhappy?" Evenepoel said.  "There are good days and bad days. Today, just before the climb, I told my teammate Cattaneo that I had sore legs, and if the guys went flat out, it would be hard to follow.

"Everybody exploded on the climbs, and it was only the guys from Ineos who paced it well. I think I made a little error in trying to follow Roglič's rhythm and I blew up a bit. But 14 seconds isn't a lot."


As he toggled between Dutch, French and English, Evenepoel elaborated on the nature of his mistake. Despite his foreboding before the final haul up I Cappuccini, he opted to respond to Roglič's searing acceleration.

Perhaps his choice was informed by the way he had outsprinted Roglič at Gran Sasso d'Italia the previous afternoon, but that was a half-hearted tussle for fourth place. This was a wrestle for real time on double-digit gradients, a very different kind of fight.

"I make a mistake by making a sort of acceleration 700m from the top to try to get up to him," Evenepoel said. "I got to within five or six metres of him, but then we turned into the steepest part of the climb, and I struggled for a moment. I saw Primoz ride away metre by metre.

"In hindsight, I should have tackled that climb the same way Thomas did. He rode his own pace to the top. That's another lesson I learned from an experienced rider. Maybe I had the legs to follow, but if I use them wrong, then it's an extra pity."


While Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) claimed a fine solo victory from the early break, the finale was always likely to see some frissons in the pink jersey group – not least because there is a notable shortage of punchy climbs like this on the remainder of the 2023 Giro.

Although Evenepoel has won Liège-Bastogne-Liège twice in succession, he indicated that the terrain here was better tailored to Roglič, who set his Jumbo-Visma team to work in the finale.

"I think it was a day for him to try because he's maybe the guy with the best power in efforts of between three and five minutes," said Evenepoel. "The climb was around five minutes, so it was a big effort from him."

After crashing twice on the road to Salerno on Wednesday, Evenepoel had shown no signs of discomfort on the following two stages to Naples and Gran Sasso, and he shrugged when asked if the injuries had caught up with him here. "Maybe. My body is still recovering. Last night there was a lot of fluid coming out of that wound, on the plaster," he said. "But I'm looking at it positively. On to tomorrow."


Sunday's 35km time trial from Savignano sul Rubicone to Cesena present Evenepoel with an obvious opportunity to offer an immediate response to this setback. After gaining over two seconds per kilometre on Roglič in the opening time trial in Ortona, the Belgian was widely expected to produce another dominant display on stage 9, even if his travails here will offer more than a kernel of hope to his rivals.

"I am not hanging my head at all," Evenepoel said when asked if his morale had been affected. "I gained 43 seconds the last time and I hope to get at least as many. I'd like to add a minute. It's a time trial that suits me well.

"The feeling is OK, just not the freshest legs today, but we're also getting towards the end of the first week. I hope for better legs tomorrow, so I can put the hammer down and take time on all the others."