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Re: 2022 Smaller Race Results and Discussion
« on: February 20, 2022, 12:01 »
#quickstep Remco Evenepoel is a bit of a strange kind of cyclist. Being belgian, you would have expected him to be road-savy, dodging potholes, burning rubber on the cobblestones and cautiously ducking and avoiding being hit when his out-of-control mates come flyying at him from approximately 5 years of age, but he was born as the cycling equivalent of bambi on ice, following perhaps the more painful path of welsh track cyclists adopted to road conditions at a mature age. However, when he is not stumbling, he throws out some spectacular performances (fully belgian at that) but mostly at the slightly smaller races. While performing to the equivalent of lapping everyone in the men's junior class roadrace back at the World Championship in Innsbrück (2018), some questions can be asked if juming directly to men's elite, skipping the U23 category entirely, was a wise move.
For the U23 racing scene, it was (there might have been 4 years  "no chance" and boredom for everone else if not). However, for Remco himself it has been a mixed bag, containing a lot of misfortune, including falling of a bridge while trying to follow Nibalit, an accident so grave and uncontrollable it might just as well have ended with paralysis or other career-ending injuries, up to loss of life. He has also racked up an impressive list of .... 3 victories at world tour level!  He has won The "Tour de Pologne" (stage + GC 2020  and perhaps, more impressive: the Klasikoa in Donostia  (San Sebastian 2019). That's it, and that's all from this formerly invincible cyclist so far.

Yesterday we saw why he has been and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with: with super strong legs (early fotball success seems to be very transferable to cycling, maybe the legs are part of the reason) and good aerodynamics, on a sunny day in good racing conditions he basically beat everyone else, including a few racers until now seen as experts at the discipline,  by such a wide margin it is hard to belive. At his favorite race, the Volta Algarve  (2.Pro). He has an amzing record, with 3 stage wins and 1 GC win already at this race!

If you don't find this completely super impressive, there was a couple of observations to be made yesterday that perhaps more justly deserves attention. It is about the distance from some of his closest competitors here, most notably #champeu Stefan Küng. He is not crap rider, actully, he is a champion, and he didn't seem to be out of shape yesterday, and yet he finished 58 seconds behind Evenepoel.  In 2020, the time trial was shorter (2/3 the length of this year), but the Küng finished 19 seconds behind Evenpoel (Rohan Dennis in between).
I also know that #champno Tobias Foss can ride impressive time trials (even if not quite Tom Dumoulin-class) and on a good day he can beat Evenepoel, at least if the latter has a bad day.  I don't think I have seen him looking more comfortable on the bike and in better shape ever since he left #unox. He was in total control of the situation on the Foia climb, at least until Higuita wanted to contest the sprint with him, and that is almost unheard of - he has been more the sufferer on long climbs till now (sometimes he has suffered to good results, but I haven't seen him with the "hey! I have best legs here today" look on his face ever since he started with #jumbo. He rode a very good time trial, and ended a few seconds behind the Küng - which is just as expected when these guys have a good day. This is is the quality control indicates the Küng's performance is a good baseline for judging Evenepoel's progress.

Remco increasing his win margin over Küng liket his means even #rainbow Filippo Ganna should look over his shoulder. And one day Remco may advance to winning more important races than the Tour de Pologne. Something like the ITT worlds, probably. The instant world domination that his most devoted fans expected from the day he turned pro with #quickstep Quickstep (2019 is 3 years ago already) did not happen, but as long as he stays upright (and this time you will, Remco?  :-x) it is unlikely that anyone will be able to deny him a second GC win in the Volta Algarve.

I just kind of wonder, he could have done that with a more careful career path too, spending a couple of years at U23 level maturing his road racing skills differently, couldn't he? Nevermind, he 'll be Campeão d'Algarve tomorrow anyway. Hooray!

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