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    Tour de France: Remco Evenepoel closes gap with Stage 7 time trial win
    • July 5, 2024

    GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN, France (AP) — Race-against-the-clock specialist Remco Evenepoel displayed impressive power and precision in winning the Tour de France’s first time trial on Friday.

    In his slipstream was every other contender for the yellow jersey, including holder Tadej Pogacar.

    Despite a small problem with his bike close to the finish that cost him a few seconds, the Tour debutant mastered the 25-kilometer (16-mile) stage in the Burgundy Grand Crus wine country to dominate his first win at cycling’s biggest race.

    Evenepoel clocked 28 minutes, 52 seconds to beat Pogacar by 12 seconds. Primoz Roglic was third, 34 seconds behind. Evenepoel has now won stages at all three Grands Tours — the Giro d’Italia, Tour and Vuelta.

    Evenepoel, who was first at all intermediate check points, stayed in second place in the general classification, 33 seconds behind Pogacar. Two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard was third overall, 1:15 behind.

    Pogacar added 25 seconds on Vingegaard, taking his revenge from last year’s time trial in Combloux where the Slovenian was at the receiving end of a sobering beating by the Dane. Vingegaard, however, did not lose too much time and the gap between them was not that big with more than two weeks of hard racing remaining.

    “I gained time on Primoz and on Jonas and the other guys, I can be really happy,” Pogacar said. “I need to keep an eye on Remco now, he is a bit closer. They can show good legs in the next mountain stages. Still a long way to go.”

    There was a big question mark over Vingegaard’s form before the start following the crash that wreaked havoc with his season. Vingegaard was hospitalized for nearly two weeks in Spain in April following a high-speed crash in the Tour of the Basque Country. He sustained a broken collarbone and ribs and a collapsed lung.

    Evenepoel has been regarded as a cycling prodigy for years. A versatile rider, he has won the 2022 Vuelta and classics after recovering from a horrific crash during a race in Italy in 2020.

    He won the world time trial last year and the road race in 2022. He needed surgery this season after breaking a collarbone and shoulder blade in a crash at the Tour of Basque Country. The two-time world champion will lead Belgium’s men’s team in road cycling at the Paris Olympics.

    “As for the rest of the Tour de France, I believe Tadej is going to be unreachable,” Evenepoel said. “But this is cycling, you never know what can happen. The further into the race we go, the better I will feel, so I’ll focus more on the podium because I feel I have the legs for it.”

    The stage took riders on forest roads and through vineyards on a mostly flat terrain. The short climb of the Côte de Curtil-Vergy after 12 kilometers added a dose of pain on the way to the finish in Gevrey-Chambertin.

    Tucked in a perfect aerodynamic position, Evenepoel went all out in the descent, reaching an impressive speed of 85 kph (53 mph).

    “The climb was pretty tough, because I wanted to start fast but I wanted to keep something,” Evenepoel said. “The descent was technical and fast, you have to do it well. I enjoyed every meter of this TT.”

    He slowed with about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) left, thinking he had a puncture, but quickly realized everything was fine and rekindled his effort.

    “Maybe somebody from the public dropped a glass or hit a fence, it made the same sound as a puncture,” he added. “I was a bit scared, but after few meters I knew nothing was wrong. I kept pushing even with the scare, fearing that maybe it was a slow puncture.”

    There will be a second time trial on the final day of the race on July 21, a 34-kilometer (21-mile) trek between Monaco and Nice.

    Saturday’s Stage 8 will take the peloton on a hilly ride to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, the home and final resting place of former French President Charles de Gaulle.

    ​ Orange County Register