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Evenepoel faces questions after Pogacar takes flight at Tirreno-Adriatico

BELLANTE ITALY MARCH 10 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team QuickStep Alpha Vinyl White Best Young Rider Jersey crosses the finish line during the 57th TirrenoAdriatico 2022 Stage 4 a 202km stage from Cascata delle Marmore to Bellante 345m TirrenoAdriatico WorldTour on March 10 2022 in Bellante Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AphaVinyl) stage 4 at Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The winner takes it all in professional cycling; the losers are just left with the pain of defeat and have to face the questions.

Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) is a natural born winner and often enjoys success but at this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico he is competing against Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) for the first time and so is being forced to learn the taste of defeat.

While Pogačar was celebrated on the podium after stage 4, Evenepoel who also lost the best young rider’s white jersey to his young rival, had to explain what happened during the hilly stage in the Abruzzo Hills and on the three climbs up to the finish in Bellante.

He tried to spark a move with Pogačar on the first climb with 40km to go, perhaps trying to isolate him with help from Julian Alaphilippe. But the Tour de France winner smelled a trap and waited for the final 600 metres of the stage before jumping away to win the stage and take the leader’s jersey.

Evenepoel could only finish fourth, 20 metres behind and two seconds down on his rival. Thanks to a ten-second time bonus, Pogačar jumped past Evenepoel in the overall classification and now leads him by nine seconds.

After recovering from his effort, Evenepoel tried to wave away the small huddle of journalists waiting to hear his thoughts beyond the finish line but then accepted to speak briefly in Dutch.

"I don't regret anything," he said, insisting he was satisfied with his ride.

“We tried to make the race hard with the team but there was a lot of wind on the descent. We couldn't make a lot of speed because of that, but I'm glad we tried.

"If we’d work together better, we might be able to drive away,” he said of the earlier attack with Pogačar. “Anyway, that's how the race went. The last climb was really hard and I think Pogačar had everything under control and he is definitely the deserved winner.

“I notice that I am a bit short of punch against guys like him. I was in position six or seven in the last few hundred metres. I had to close some gaps but I saw pretty quickly that the best bird had flown.”

Evenepoel had carefully hedged his bets before and during Tirreno-Adriatico about his chances against Pogačar.

He is aware, like everyone in the peloton, that Pogačar is on another level after peaking for the UAE Tour. As he glides down from a high peak, the Tour de France winner has dominated Strade Bianche, is now in control at Tirreno-Adriatico and likely a disruptive presence and possible winner of Milan-San Remo and even the Tour of Flanders.

“I'm still second in the standings and have everything under control,” Evenepoel said, trying to stay optimistic.

"I came here to try to get to the podium, we’re well on our way there. I think the stages will suit me better in the coming days. It was a good first test, on to tomorrow."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.