Remco Evenepoel wants to defend Vuelta a España lead ahead of TT

Evenepoel says he hopes to carry red into next week's individual time trial.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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CAMARGO, Spain (VN) — Remco Evenepoel rolled through his first day in the red jersey at the Vuelta a España with a smile largely replacing the grimaces from Thursday’s massive attack.

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl leader was content to let a breakaway challenge for the day’s spoils Friday, and Evenepoel is already bracing for back-to-back climbing stages this weekend in Asturias.

“We will see tomorrow. I have a nice advantage now, so I will also be happy just to keep this time gap over the others. Of course, if there is an opportunity I will not let it go,” he said.

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Evenepoel breezed through Friday’s transition stage to defend his leader’s jersey with no major shakeups in the top 20. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl could sit back and watch as teams like Bora-Hansgrohe, BikeExchange-Jayco, and Trek-Segafredo did all the work to try to chase back the winning break.

“It was a perfect scenario because the other teams controlled the race, and we didn’t have to do anything,” Evenepoel said. “Everybody could try to recover from yesterday’s race, and in the end, everybody was doing well. We were in control, and we were relaxed. It was quite a good day for us.”

‘Going into the TT with an advantage is better’

Evenepoel is growing confident by the day. (Photo: DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Evenepoel’s surge into red continues to rattle across the paddock.

Many rivals suddenly fear Evenepoel as a legitimate threat, especially if he can survive back-to-back summit finales this weekend with the red jersey still on his back.

“It was great to wake up this morning to see the red helmet and the special bike,” Evenepoel said. “I slept well, and I had a good night. The team is ready to protect me as long as I can defend.”

The climbs this weekend in Asturias are steep and explosive, ideal terrain for Evenepoel to try to defend his jersey against the likes of Primož Roglič and Enric Mas, who will be under pressure to attack.

“It’s pretty clear that we don’t want to lose the jersey, so getting out of the weekend is the main aim,” Evenepoel said Friday. “There are actually two different really climbs, Saturday is around a 30 minute finish, and Sunday around 15 minutes.

“Both are really steep climbs, but I don’t know, [Saturday] is a longer stage, Sunday is a shorter stage, so it all depends on how the climbs will be ridden. I think Saturday’s will be harder than Sunday.”

Evenepoel has Tuesday’s time trial waiting for him next week, a stage that should tilt in his favor against almost all of his direct GC rivals with the exception of Roglič.

“It’s a tricky race, and going into the time trial with an advantage would be better than going into the time trial from behind,” Evenepoel said.

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