Breaking News: Giro d’Italia 2020 - Remco Evenepoel takes the Maglia Rosa on the Etna!
ITALY 5/10/2020 – After an epic final on the rainy slopes of Sicily’s active volcano Etna, Belgium’s cycling promise Remco Evenepoel has conquered his first leader's jersey in a grand tour (GT). Challengers Vincenzo Nibali and Geraint Thomas immediately lost a minute to the young “cannibal from Schepdaal” during the first stage with an uphill finish at this year’s Giro d’Italia.
A certain Eddy Merckx had won his first GT (of many more to come) on Italian soil at the age of 23. Is Belgium’s cycling hero Remco Evenepoel now definitely following in his footsteps? We probably must go back to the victory of VDB in Liège Bastogne Liège in 1999 – that memorable look aside to dying swan Michele Bartoli on a sprint (!) uphill at “La Redoute”- that Belgian cycling was able to witness such an emotional moment!
Unstoppable and fast like a swirling stream of fresh lava, Evenepoel rushed alone to the finish line of stage three in the Giro, evaporating the ambitions of his fellow general classification (GC) contenders. Rumors go that the young Belgian reached the finish line on his rims only. The tires and tubes of his carbon high tech bicycle proven unable to deal with the speed and heat that built for kilometers as the rubber hit the road. Exaggeration is widely accepted in the world of cycling tales, and we make no exception to this rule for the occasion.
The solidified lava of one of the most active volcanoes in Europe proved to be fertile ground as well for the victory of the new wonder boy from Brussels. Our forefathers probably would have dared to call this a “Merckxian” exploit. Did we see here today a first victory on the way to emperorship on the “Via Roma”, little less than 3 weeks from now? It’s not unlikely as the other gladiators have already been hit quite hard by the new "Muscles from Brussels".
During today's stage, which -on the map- crossed the stone in front of the Italian boot, Iljo Keisse kept the early breakaway under control all day long. That breakaway was animated by another fellow landsman, Victor Campenaerts, the holder of the world hour record. No one has ever crossed more kilometers in one hour. Unfortunately for him, the stage was again a few hours longer, so Campenaerts ended up being swallowed by the group. After the excellent work of Keisse, the Deceuninck-QuickStep pacers James Knox and Joao Almeida ensured that the peloton got hold of the last remains of the breakaway on the initial hectometers of the final climb. At the back, half of the peloton immediately looked for the bus or “grupetto” to the top.
About five kilometers from the finish, an elite group with the “Shark from Messina”, aka Vincenzo Nibali or ‘the local kid’, and the Welshman Geraint Thomas, set the pace upfront. While Geraint Thomas shortly after had to fall back on his own pace and wouldn’t make it out of the saddle anymore until the top, Nibali answered the two first attacks of our fellow countryman with the necessary Italian flair. The third time that Evenepoel hit his pedals hard though, the experienced Tour de France winner of 2014 eventually cracked. Despite the wild and heated encouragement of his fellow Sicilians, Evenepoel systematically increased his advantage. The shark had to let lose but kept his teeth, as he made his way up to the summit. The summit of the Etna, the mountain on which Nibali had learned to climb in his youth. Did we see Felipe Gimondi here being dropped by Eddy Merckx? Eddy at that time -it was 1967- also being the “new kid in town” amd Gimondi the local hero. It looked like it. This could be the moment to draw parallels, something that is widely accepted as well in the world of cycling tales.
At the finish line, Evenepoel more than compensated for the 45 seconds that he had been lying behind in the GC. Spumanti in the Maglia Rosa for Evenepoel on the podium! In addition to the beautiful victory on the volcano, Belgium’s new Eddy also takes the lead in the general classification and the mountain jersey!
While the opening time trial may have been a huge fiasco after a crash at the start, this victory allows Remco to continue to work on his dream. That dream is winning a grand tour and doing better than the palmares of his great heroes. Beware, Eddy Merckx and Frank Vandenbroucke!
Stage result (3rd stage):
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel - Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 4h05: 55
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita - Trek-Segado) at 00:55
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr Ineos) 1:15 am
4. Steven Kruyswijk (Ned - Lotto Jumbo) 01:33
5. Raphael Majka (Pol - Bora Hansgrohe) 1:33
Standings (3rd stage):
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel - Deceuninck-Quick Step)
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr - Ineos) at 0:18
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita - Trek Segado) 0:25