Remco Evenepoel is even better than we thought
Ahead of Tuesday’s individual time trial, many forecasted Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) to triumph over his GC rivals, but few could predict by how much.
Out on the road, the answer became clear. A lot.
Over the 30.9km course, the Belgian won by a resounding margin of 48 seconds, taking the stage win in Alicante ahead of Olympic time trial champion Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). The gap to Enric Mas (Movistar), who started the day in second place in the overall standings, was even wider, stretching out to almost two minutes.
With this victory, Evenepoel made life that little bit easier for himself, tightening his grip on the red jersey and giving himself a more comfortable buffer for the mountain challenges still to come.
Ineos Grenadiers are rapid against the clock
Perhaps the most surprising performers on stage nine were Ineos Grenadiers duo Carlos Rodríguez and Pavel Sivakov.
The Spaniard, racing his debut Grand Tour, proved his time trialling ability on the roads between Elche and Alicante, narrowly missing out on a podium spot on the day. Just five seconds down on his teammate, Sivakov rolled in for a highly commendable fifth place.
Tao Geoghegan Hart made it three Ineos Grenadiers riders in the top eight, showing that the team with an hour record-holder for a performance engineer have not been slacking against the clock.
Concentration is key
Tuesday’s time trial course offered few technical obstacles and took place, for the most part, on wide, straight roads.
Though there were no crashes, João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) was punished for a lapse in concentration when he took a wrong turn in the closing moments of the race, accidentally following his team car along the deviation route back to the paddock.
The 24-year-old quickly realised his mistake, made a 180-degree turn in the road and sprinted back towards the finish line. Though he remains seventh in the general classification, his advantage to eighth-placed Miguel Ángel López (Astana Qazaqstan) has been slashed to just five seconds, down from 31.
The riders are poised for the mountains
On a course that favoured the most powerful TT specialists, few would have tipped López for a top 10. So strong was the Colombian on the day that he caught Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) on the home straight, the Giro d’Italia winner having set out two minutes earlier.
López now looks to be coming into form as the arduously long climbs, typical of the Vuelta a España, approach.
Other riders held back in their efforts, with Australian time trial champion Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) finishing 83rd on the stage. Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) too appeared to ease off in the second half of the course when he realised the stage win would elude him. Energy conservation may prove a smart idea for the two Australians, as they turn to support their teams in the coming days.
The non-starters are quickly adding up
A further eight riders failed to take the start ramp in Elche on Tuesday, bringing the total number of withdrawals at this year’s race to 28.
Prior to stage 10, it was announced that double stage winner Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) had been sent home with Covid-19. The Irishman had exerted his dominance as the strongest in this year’s field of sprinters, taking his first Grand Tour stage wins since 2020.
Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), José Herrada (Cofidis), Harry Sweeny, Jarrad Drizners (both Lotto Soudal) and Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar) were also forced to pull out with the virus.