After losing 27 minutes in Stage 13, it became evident that Remco Evenepoel was no longer contending for the overall victory. However, Jumbo-Visma remained skeptical.
The next day, the Soudal–Quick-Step rider was trying to bounce back and go for a stage win. But the Dutch super squad wouldn’t let him escape.
“They were countering me all the time, because they are afraid that I would regain time. I had to explain to Jonas Vingegaard ten times that I no longer wanted to go for the overall,” he said in an interview with Sporza. “They didn’t believe me at first, but luckily they did in the end.”
And so, the day after the defending champion experienced a challenging stage and fell out of contention for the 78th edition of La Vuelta the world time trial champion got clear with Romain Bardet.
Ultimately, he would drop his French breakaway companion and win Saturday’s 14th stage, also claiming the King of the Mountains (KOM) lead. The next day, Stage 15, he hoped to get some more points to secure his climber’s jersey, but it didn’t turn out to be as easy as he hoped.
“The goal was to go for the stage and pick up some mountain points along the way, but I felt that my legs were still full from yesterday. I knew that if there were any accelerations on the last climb, it would be difficult for me. There were too many fresh men in the break who could make it difficult for me,” he said. “I still went quite deep, even though I was completely spent. Klaas Lodewyck shouted in my earpiece to keep going, because they were starting to gamble at the front. But you can’t win everything, I got the most out of it.”
Rui Costa would go on to take Stage 15, marking his fourth win in a Grand Tour. As for what’s next, Eveneopoel knows he needs to conserve his energy in the final week.
“On Tuesday I’m going to let myself relax as much as possible,” he said. “I want to come in quietly. And then after Stage 16, I will try to compete again in the two difficult days afterwards.”