Does Remco Really Have Covid-19?

Hot on the heels of Remco Evenepoel's withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia - while leading - the conspiracy theories have been flying.

By Michael Ventuno-Mantovani |

Cycling’s golden child has a few detractors, it seems. Hot on the heels of Remco Evenepoel’s withdrawal from the Giro d’Italia – while leading – the conspiracy theories have been flying. Appearing on the Slovenian podcast SOS-echoes, director of the Slovenian national team Martin Hvastija didn’t hold back when asked about Remco Evenepoel, who had just abandoned the race in the wake of a positive COVID-19 test.

“I don’t believe it,” Hvastija told podcast hosts Toni Gruden and Slavko Jerič, offering his opinion in a way that echoed the trademark bluntness of Evenepoel’s Belgian countryfolk.

As testing for COVID is no longer required by the UCI, and even if riders do test positive, there is no current mandate that teams must pull their rider from the race, Hvastija surmised that this is a move motivated by cowardice more than illness.

“I think it’s more that Remco is afraid to face the truth rather than that is a serious illness,” Hvastija said.

Asked if this might be a strategy to give Evenepoel time to rest and focus on a potential go at the Tour de France, Hvastija offered an equally forward and bare-knuckled response.

“Remco is especially overrated by the Belgian public. At his age, Tadej Pogačar already had two victories on the Tour. Remco is not so young that we can say that he is still very, very young. If he goes to the Tour, he will meet Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard, and the rest of the fraternity there. He specifically prepared for the Giro. He did not talk about other races this year. I don’t believe that he can prepare for the Tour with the same quality. I don’t believe he would be competitive, but we must not forget that he already resigned at the 2021 Giro, where he did not leave a good impression. He finished the race poorly and went home in disgrace.”

It’s no secret that Evenepoel came to Italy to win the Giro. And, thanks to a blazing opening time trial, many cycling fans and pundits were all but prepared to coronate the young Belgian after the first two stages. But the week that followed was bizarre, putting Evenepoel in the headlines daily.

First, after he willingly gave up the maglia rosa in order to avoid the post-race circus to comes with leading the race, Evenepoel was hung out to dry by his teammates on a late climb. Then, he suffered a pair of bizarre crashes at the start and finish of stage five. On Saturday, Evenepoel lost 14 seconds to what many believe is his closest rival, Primoz Roglič. And now, just a day after getting back in the maglia rosa in thanks to another strong time trial on Sunday, the Soudal-Quick-Step leader has ended his bid to win the Giro d’Italia.

But Hvastija said it may have been the way in which the overall standings shook out as the first week of racing ended as the reason behind Evenepoel’s abandonment.

“I think that the main reason (Evenepoel dropped out of the race) is that he does not have the advantage of three minutes, as he predicted,” Hvastija said.

Hvastija is not the only one asking questions, though, with some support for the Slovenian ‘bad loser’ outburst appearing in the cesspit that can be Twitter.

Whatever the reason, COVID is hitting the peloton hard, with marquee riders like Rigoberto Uran and Filippo Ganna abandoning with positive tests over the last few days. It’s a list of names that seems to be growing with each passing day.

This morning, the Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni announced a reinstatement of mask mandates for the remainder of the corsa rosa.

With Evenepoel’s abandonment, Ineos Grenadiers rider and one of the pre-race favorites Geraint Thomas enters week two the maglia rosa. Roglič is two seconds back from him. Thomas’s teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart rounds out the podium, five seconds back from first.

Whatever the truth, we are in for a fascinating fortnight as the Giro continues, regardless… and possibly an extra name to throw in the hat for the Tour de France! Catch it all on Supersport or GCN+


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