Now that the Vuelta a España has ended, it’s time to
take a break give the riders some space skip ahead immediately to talking about who will win the next grand tour. And apparently there are a lot of guys hanging around Madrid today who will figure into that.
He’s a one-name guy now. Maybe just Rem, although I’ll have to train my phone not to autocorrect to REM.
Life is moving quickly for the Belgian star. He is skipping a parade at home and heading straight to Australia for the World Championships, where the Belgian media has already started generating fake drama around pairing him with Wout Van Aert in the road race team. Meanwhile, Patrick Lefevre has said that the plan for Evenepoel is to stay the course and introduce him to the Tour in 2024. No doubt Lef and co are about to endure a level of temptation that would make the Buddha blush. [Yes, the Belgian media is Mara in this scenario.] But after 24 hours of going back and forth on this plan, I think I agree.
The team has already said that their opening presumption is that he will represent them at the Giro d’Italia next spring, rather than the Tour. IMO there are some downsides to this. Given Remco’s riding style and his history in Italy, he will not likely find the race all that good of a match for him. He will have to get through some sketchy descents intact to even have a chance. Every Giro has its quirks. By comparison, the Tour tends to use wider, less tricky roads and won’t challenge Remco’s handling skills or riding style as much.
But the Tour is a pressure-cooker in ways the Giro is not. And it’s not like Lefevre can go to Remco and say “we know you aren’t ready to win the Tour, but your bike-handling sucks and we don’t want you crashing at the Giro, so let’s just go to France.” In his defense, Evenepoel was fine at the Vuelta, with one crash whose cause we never really saw. At most, he got out of position a few times but it wasn’t terribly important. So perhaps my concerns are overblown, and even if they aren’t, well, might as well go and face them now, before trying to conquer the Tour.
I personally don’t see Evenepoel on a level with Pogacar and Vingegaard, not really even close. One grand tour completed is just a start, and while his natural talent will put him in the conversation in France before long, I wouldn’t say he’s a pure enough climber to hang right now. When he’s ready, his crono skills will give him a real chance to win, but not so fast. Aaaaand now comes rumors that the Giro plans to go a bit heavy on time trials. Maybe this is a bit of subterfuge by Lefevre, or the Giro openly recruiting Remco to spice things up next spring. Maybe they just got tired of shafting the cronomen.
Anyway, look for Remco to continue to be scrutinized to some insane degree at the Worlds, at Lombardia or whatever else he races, at his wedding, and certainly at the big races on his calendar in 2023. Look for him to continue his campaign of “nobody believes in me” even though an entire country has gone to ridiculous lengths of believing in him.
Whatever works, I guess.
Wait, there are Giro Rumors?
Yes, there are. From HLN.be, this year’s Corsa Rosa will up the total km against the watch to 60-70km, as opposed to the meager 26km at this year’s race. Additionally the race is said to be looking at starting in Pescara, on the Adriatic coast of Abruzzo province. Undoubtedly a tribute to the greatest Abruzzese rider,
Vito Taccone Giulio Ciccone Danilo Di Luca. Such a start would position the race to head south into the murky depths of the Mezzogiorno, although probably not to Sicily. Expect a mix of coastal flats and medium mountain stages, maybe with Vesuvio thrown in? There aren’t a ton of major climbs down there, except for the Blockhaus, which was part of this year’s race. Don’t expect a stop in Fontecchio, however advisable, unless and until they can restore the road to double-lane size after it got cleaved off in the 2009 quake.
The Giro will announce its 2023 course on Monday, October 17.
What the hell do we say about the Ecuadorean Olympic Champ now? A lot. He just scrambled back from a mysterious slippage in form to open the Vuelta, roaring back to three stage wins and the KOM jersey, even bumping up to 14th on GC... his worst result since 2018. So which is he, the heroic third week climber or the guy slipping backwards on overall results?
It’s pretty easy to criticize his final push to “glory”: it came on the end of a very long leash from the power teams and GC aspirants, none of whom cared what he was up to, since he wasn’t helping his teammates Carlos Rodriguez or Tao Hart do anything more. Fair enough, given that Carapaz is off to EF Education-EasyPost next year. But stage wins over Thymen Arensman, Wilco Kelderman, and an indifferent chase group don’t really move the needle.
He did look good though, day after day, like you would want from a true GC contender, which the 2019 Giro d’Italia winner is. It’s worth remembering that before faltering in the first half of this year’s Vuelta, he finished second at the harder Giro d’Italia this spring — a disappointing second, to be sure, but these things happen. And before that he was third at the Tour. And second in the Vuelta.
So why was his Vuelta such a dud at first? Maybe he wasn’t square emotionally racing for a team after signing to leave. Maybe the mechanics of switching teams got in the way. Maybe he had trouble getting going again after a hard Giro. Maybe he stayed out late in Amsterdam before the start, mesmerized by the red light district. Maybe he was abducted by a (surprisingly evil) identical twin who then raced the first half of the Vuelta in his name — poorly, it should be said — only for the real Richard Carapaz to reemerge and storm the peloton, keeping his ordeal to himself for fear of being disqualified. The point is, it’s cycling, there are endless possible explanations, and only one of them is “I guess he just sucks at three week racing now.”
Oh lord, here we go. The guy who is on everyone’s FSA DS team actually came all the way through to take third overall and now we are supposed to celebrate how he’s the next big, big thing? Because a bunch of geniuses — 394 of them, including yours truly — saw him at one point and figured, eventually one of these young Spanish climbers will win something? Well congratulations.
Ayuso, however, is just the second-youngest grand tour podium finisher ever. And! The first-youngest, Henri Cornet, actually won! The Tour de France! So are we sure Ayuso’s achievement is so amazing? Oh, and Carlos Alcaraz is six months younger than Ayuso, and you didn’t see him losing to anyone in the U.S. Open, did you?
I know 26 is considered ancient now, but can we spend a least a moment contemplating the Giro winner’s place in the 2023 lineup? All signs point to him racing the Tour de France in 2023, after finishing 10th at the Vuelta as part of his first ever season to include a pair of grand tours. Hindley broke out in 2020, when the compressed, revised schedule only allowed riders one shot at a three-week race, and 2021 saw his entire season out of whack after going back to the Giro to avenge his close loss the year before. Finally everything within his control fell into place for this season, and Hindley produced the desired result for his new BORA squad — a grand tour win. He did so as a team leader and did so on the strength of his climbing in week three, when he caught and passed Carapaz in the Dolomites for the final victory.
There is almost nothing to say about Hindley’s chances against the top riders at the Tour de France, apart from “good luck.” Unless you want to pick apart this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico, where Hindley wasn’t able to keep up with the likes of Pogacar or Vingegaard in the “high mountains” of early March. Of course, the signs are there that Hindley is indeed a human being and therefore not likely to beat either of the past two Tour winners when things heat up in July, but in terms of actual proof, we will have to wait for the returns next summer.
Has any recent grand tour winner gotten less of a rep from his exploits than Hindley? Toss out Tao Hart in 2020 — toss out 2020 in its entirety — and you’d have to consider Simon Yates (2018 Giro) and maybe Chris Horner (2013 Vuelta) as the other riders to get comparably little notoriety from their wins. Horner’s win is a total outlier given his age (41), and Yates’ triumph came after several years of sportswriters being proven wrong predicting either of the Yates boys to win something big, so there was a certain wariness (and/or weariness) to the reaction.
In Hindley’s case, the problem is the competition. He might have been regarded as the next big thing if it weren’t for several other riders coming past him rather spectacularly to that end of late. Could he be the most successful grand tour rider of his generation — after the sudden influx of historically awesome riders like Pogacar, Vingegaard, Evenepoel and Bernal? Sure! Although Ayuso is likely to match him and Arensman is coming up fast too. Sigh. It’s sort of like putting out a really great movie in 1976 and trying to generate Oscar buzz over Rocky, All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver, Network, Marathon Man, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and A Star Is Born. If it doesn’t work, well, it might not be entirely your fault.
Luis Ángel Maté
The Euskaltel rider vowed to plant a tree in his home area, around the burned out slopes of Sierra Bermeja near La Marbella in Málaga Province, for every km he spent on a breakaway. I haven’t seen a final total but he was up to 175km on the loose as of stage 16. We need more people like Luis Ángel Maté.