Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took an emotional victory on stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve, powering across the line at the top of the Alto da Fóia just ahead of Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) for his third success of 2020.
The 20-year-old, who now holds the overall lead as well as the lead of the young rider and mountain classifications, dedicated his victory to Lotto Soudal rider Nikolas Maes, whose son Maurice was stillborn last week.
"There was some bad news in the bunch for Nikolas Maes," Evenepoel said to a group of reporters after the stage finish. "His son died, and this morning I said to the guys that if I win, I'll dedicate the victory to him. This victory is for him and his wife, so I'll also give some flowers to him.
"I think there are more important things in life and stuff like this is more important than my victory today. So, it's a victory for him and his family."
Evenepoel is now in the driving seat for the overall win on Sunday, even if his advantage over Schachmann, and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) who lies third at two seconds, is a slim one.
The Belgian opened his season with overall victory at the Vuelta a San Juan three weeks ago, while now his European debut could see him take his 2020 stage racing record to two in two.
"Last week I had some hard training and a hard week, so I'm really happy that it came out now," Evenepoel said.
At 400 metres from the line, he jumped away from the elite group of climbers that had emerged by the final kilometre. Despite a dozen men in pursuit of him, Evenepoel quickly built a gap, though Schachmann put in the strongest response.
The German made his way back up to Evenepoel, but it wasn't quite enough to overhaul the prodigy, and so it was another win for Deceuninck-QuickStep after Fabio Jakobsen's success on stage 1.
"In the last two kilometres he put a big pace," said Evenepoel. "I had a feeling that I had something left for the last 500 metres, and it worked out."
Two main tests lie in wait for Evenepoel and the rest of his GC rivals, with stage 4 finishing atop the less tough hilltop finish of the Alto do Malhão, while Sunday's final stage brings a 20km time trial around Lagoa.
Given that Evenepoel, a runner-up in last year's World Championships time trial, built his San Juan success on the back of his dominant time trial victory on stage 3, it would be hard to bet against him hanging on to the yellow jersey all the way to the end of the race.
"We will see," he said. "There's still a big day on Saturday, so we'll have to defend the jersey there, and we will see. Sunday is a big day for me, and hopefully, I can take the yellow jersey there with me."
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