Giro d’Italia: Should Remco Evenepoel give away the pink jersey?
Is Evenepoel's early GC lead a blessing or a curse? Is the maglia rosa a gift that should be given? Our editors debate either way.
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Remco Evenepoel won the maglia rosa on the opening day of the Giro d’Italia and is facing up to the very real possibility of wearing it all the way into the race’s conclusion in Roma.
But not if he can help it.
“It would be better to try and give the jersey away at some point,” Evenepoel said this weekend.
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Wearing the leader’s jersey this early in a grand tour is both a blessing and a curse for a GC favorite.
Leading one of the biggest races in the world is a privilege only the smallest percent of the peloton will ever experience.
But what about the workload of three full weeks of media duties, podium presentations, and being called on to burn through teammates to control potentially inconsequential stages?
It’s an undesired effort that sees grand tour hopefuls “gift” their leader’s jersey to an off-grid outsider before reeling it back onto their own shoulders later into the race.
So, should Soudal Quick-Step work a jersey-gifting plan this week?
Our editors Andrew Hood and Jim Cotton look at either side of the argument.
Andrew Hood: Yes*
Does Evenepoel want to pull a Gianni Bugno, and wear the pink jersey from start to finish? No.
Does Evenepoel want to pull a Landis — the tactical reference, not the more nefarious one — and hand the pink tunic to an outside GC threat? Double no.
Can Evenepoel thread the needle, and hope the race leader’s jersey can slip onto some opportune, caretaker rider for the middle part of the race? He and his Soudal Quick-Step teammates will be hoping so.
This Giro route, however, isn’t making it easy for Evenepoel, at least in terms of “gifting” the race lead to someone else.
The lumpy profiles in the next few days will give breakaways a chance to stick, but the sprinters in the bunch will also be racing to set up reduced bunch gallops.
The summit finale Friday will see riders who’ve already given up critical GC time trying to get something back, forcing to Quick-Step to chase and making it harder for breaks to stick. That will only play into the hands of Primož Roglič, who will be hoping to scoop up time bonuses to chip away at his deficit.
And then there’s Sunday’s TT, which will all but certainly put Evenepoel back into pink if he somehow lets it ride away.
Quick-Step won’t want to play it too cute, and other teams might actually pull to keep Evenepoel in pink if it’s close anyway to keep the pressure and responsibility on the Belgian.
Week 2 could see more opportunities for breaks and the emergence of a caretaker jersey-holder.
Teams will only “give away” a jersey if they’re not ceding ground to direct GC rivals. Finding allies to share the work of controlling these transition stages will help Evenepoel, but only if it’s the right fit. Hence the asterisk.
Jim Cotton: NO!
No gifts Remco, no! No!
Giving away the pink jersey is a sensible strategy in some ways, but a total head-scratcher in so many others.
Sure, Evenepoel doesn’t want the burden of the maglia rosa all the way through to Roma.
His “wolf pack” will be put to work controlling the peloton and could lose valuable heft for the kingmaker mountain stages to come. And every day Evenepoel is called to the GC podium, he’s losing hours of time he could have spent in his recovery socks, snacks at hand, and Netflix in the eyeline.
But like Primož Roglič found out in the 2019 corsa rosa, the pink jersey isn’t a prize you should give away lightly. “Rogla” gifted his maglia on stage 6 of that year’s Giro and never saw it again when his race unraveled through the final week.
Judging the right break to let go needs tactical nous, and giving even a semi-threatening outsider the GC lead is a dice roll.
Evenepoel’s plot to give away the jersey early this week is tangled with his presumption he’ll get it back, and change, on the long stage 9 time trial.
An extrapolation of his stage 1 decimation suggests the 23-year-old could score more than a minute on his GC rivals next Sunday. But the Giro is no controllable beast.
A dangerous-looking hilly stage could see the race gallop out of Evenepoel’s clutches far before his stage 9 return to pink.
Like Roglič’s fixation with Vincenzo Nibali in 2019, any number of subplots could emerge to fill the Belgian’s brainwaves and distract from the urgent task of regaining his GC crown.
And more simply, for Evenepoel to evade podium duties, he’s got to give up his lead in the “young rider” category, too. And then it all starts getting complex.
Keeping pink for three weeks would be hella’ task. But it’s certainly better than giving it away and never getting it back.