‘We’re not circus monkeys’ - Remco Evenepoel rages against the dying of the Vuelta a España light

Belgian says it was 'ridiculous' to hold team time trial so late

Clock20:10, Saturday 26th August 2023
There wasn't much light left when Soudal Quick-Step finished their TTT at the Vuelta a España

© Sprint Cycling Agency

There wasn't much light left when Soudal Quick-Step finished their TTT at the Vuelta a España

Remco Evenepoel had barely come to a halt beyond the finish line in Barcelona before the recriminations began. He gestured to the sky, almost black, and glared directly into the waiting television cameras.

The Belgian and his Soudal Quick-Step squad were the last starters in the team time trial that opened the Vuelta a España on Saturday evening, and they finished just shy of 8.40pm, illuminated by streetlights and headlights.

Thunderstorms had thrown the the Catalan capital into a gloom from the very first starters and brought on an early dusk, but the lack of light was so striking that it can’t have been too much better even in clement conditions.

From a sporting perspective, Evenepoel came through pretty well, his team six seconds off the win but crucially more than half a minute up on key rivals Jumbo-Visma. That result, however, was an irrelevance for him in the immediate aftermath.

“No, not one question, not one answer,” he fumed when the microphones gathered around and “one question” was requested.

“It’s ridiculous to have a TT in this dark,” he continued. “We don’t see any shit. It’s super dangerous, the road was wet, full of water. "It’s ridiculous,” he added. “We are not monkeys in the circus.”

The rain compounded what was already a highly-technical course for a team time trial, with no fewer than 18 90-degree bends. There weren’t as many crashes as perhaps feared, but Ineos have lost Laurens De Plus from the race while pretty much the whole Jayco-AlUla squad came down on the same bend.

Aside from the stage winners, dsm-firmenich, there weren’t too many happy faces in Barcelona, with most simply happy to get through unscathed, if indeed that was the case. Evenepoel conceded six seconds to Enric Mas (Movistar) but gained 14 on Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), 26 on Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard, and 31 on UAE Team Emirates’ trident of Juan Ayuso, João Almeida, and Jay Vine.

For Evenepoel, though, that was all overshadowed, and the Belgian set out on his title defence with a bitter taste left in the mouth.

"It’s just strange they let us race in the dark like this," he said, later agreeing to speak at greater length.

"You have the whole day to do a TTT. We had to waster the whole day when it was dry. Rain is rain - we cannot change the rain - but we can change the circumstances we’re racing in. With all the factors coming - that it’s super dark, super sketchy on these roads - in my eyes it’s just ridiculous.

"For sure I will get all the haters and criticisers again on me, but that’s just how it is."

If you head to our Vuelta a España landing page, you will find everything you need to know ahead of the race, including our race preview, the route, start list and individual stage previews. Check it out for all that and more.

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