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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 9: Remco Evenepoel sneaks back into pink with narrow TT win over Geraint Thomas

Evenepoel misses the knock-out punch against Roglič, with Thomas and Geoghegan Hart moving closer with strong weekend.

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Remco Evenepoel slunk back into the pink jersey Sunday at the Giro d’Italia in a wet and sloppy time trial that saw him win the stage by just one second ahead of Geraint Thomas, but not deliver the knock-out punch.

The 35km test ended in a near-tie at the top of the leaderboard, with Evenepoel winning his second time trial of this Giro by stopping the clock in 41:24m (50.725kph). That was one second faster than Thomas and two seconds faster than Tao Geoghegan Hart after Ineos Grenadiers went two-three.

Evenepoel was satisfied with another stage win, but he was expecting more in the decisive time trial.

“I didn’t pace it very well. I started way too fast, and my second part was bad. After the technical section I found some better legs,” Evenepoel said. “My first part was very good, and in the second part, with the headwind, I wasn’t feeling too well. It’s not the best result.”

After a strong start, Evenepoel lagged a bit on the second half, but found just enough in the reserves to deny Thomas in what would have been his first career Giro stage win.

Evenepoel moves back into the pink jersey, now 45 seconds ahead of Thomas, who moves into second, and 47 seconds to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Geoghegan Hart slots into fourth, while João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) wanted more Sunday and settled into fifth at 1:07 back.

“Another stage win is nice, but it was not my best time trial I ever did,” Evenepoel said. “It was a very tight one today. To go into the mountains with that advantage is pretty good. Ineos will have some plans to attack me, but we have a strong team. We have a lot of confidence. Tomorrow I need to recover well. The last two days were not my best.”

All eyes were on Evenepoel and Roglič a day after the Slovenian clawed back time in Saturday’s stage.

Roglič suffered in the first half of the course, but recovered nicely in the second half to limit his losses to Evenepoel to just 17 seconds.

“We are happy with his performance. It’s always difficult to know what will be the situation. We also know this TT after eight days of racing would suit Primož a bit more,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Marc Reef. “He picked up the pace during the TT. He took time back toward the end and he finished it out in a strong way.”

The Ineos Grenadiers pair of Thomas and Geoghegan Hart, who joined Roglič in Saturday’s raid, confirmed they are on an improving trajectory going into the Giro’s first rest day.

Ineos Grenadiers now sees five riders inside the top-20, meaning the UK team can play different cards in the coming stages.

“We are disappointed to not win the stage by one second or two seconds, but we are happy with the outcome,” said Ineos Grenadiers sport director Matteo Tossato. “It’s important to look at it day by day. The team moved very well Saturday. It’s important to stay calm, and the last week is super hard, and it’s important to improve day by day.”

With the absence of Filippo Ganna, who left the Giro on Saturday with COVID-19, Stefan Küng was the pre-stage favorite among the specialists. He delivered the best time ahead of the final wave of the GC riders, but it wasn’t fast enough and he stopped the clock four seconds slower in fourth.

A few more GC contenders suffered another blow, with riders like Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) ceding so much time that their podium hopes are all but buried.

Overnight leader Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) saw his five-day run in the pink jersey end, as expected, and he sunk in the GC.

Rest day and transition stages with the big climbs looming

Evenepoel is back in pink, but he couldn’t deliver the knock-out punch that he wanted. (Photo: RCS Sport)

The pack sees its first rest day Monday, and racing resumes Tuesday with the 196km 10th stage from Scandiano to Viareggio. A second-category climb mid-stage will set up a tug-of-war between a breakaway and any sprinters who might survive the lumpy profile.

That will set up four transition stages stacked up this week ahead of Friday’s first touch with the big mountains in this year’s corsa rosa.

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