Remco Evenepoel is ideally placed to make a huge impact at the 2021 Giro d'Italia but an interview he gave before Stage 8 left more questions than answers.
The prodigiously talented Deceuninck–Quickstep rider is well set and looking to make a big statement at the Grand Tour after making his comeback from being sidelined through injury. He was only cleared to return to training in February but has made an instant impact, fuelling hopes he could win his debut Grand Tour.
But amid all the rampant excitement and hype over the Belgian's prospects at the Grand Tour, he betrayed an apparent tiredness ahead of Stage 8.
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Is the 21-year-old really weary and struggling; was he simply being understated and modest; or are there some subtle mind games at play?
"I will take it day-by-day," he began in his pre-Stage 8 interview with Eurosport.
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To be honest, the last two evenings I have felt quite tired. So I think I am starting to feel a bit of the racing again after such a long break.
"But in three days there is a rest day, so the faster we get there, the better for me.
"Maybe I will feel better today, we will see. The weather will be better than the last few days so that is already good for the morale.
"You never know. You always have to fight until the line. It is still really long and we are only at Stage 8 today and tomorrow is much, much harder."
Evenepoel would be viewed as the “King of Belgium” if he was to pull off a miracle comeback and win the Giro, according to Eurosport expert Sean Kelly.
Kelly, a fluent Flemish speaker who once lived in Belgium, said the reaction would be “totally crazy” in his home country if he pulled it off.
“He is thinking of trying to do a real good ride in this Giro,” Kelly said on Eurosport commentary during Stage 7.
“If he can do something like a podium place or top five, that would be a super performance but if he does better than that, and if he goes on to challenge or even win this race, the Belgians, my god, will be totally crazy.
The reaction will be huge.
“Remco Evenepoel is already a huge name but this will make him the King of Belgium.”
Johan De Muynck was the last Belgian to win the Giro in 1978.
Stage 8 kicks off a bumper weekend with plenty of climbs. While Attila Valter (Groupama–FDJ) came in holding the maglia rosa, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and Evenepoel will be looking to strike.
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