By Jonny Long
Remco Evenepoel has returned to outdoor training, a small fact that should worry any member of the peloton hoping to win a bike race in the next 10 years.
The 21-year-old Belgian has big hopes for his debut Grand Tour at the Giro d'Italia in the coming months and has had to wait longer than expected after his season-ending crash at Il Lombardia in August, which ruled him out of October's Giro.
At Il Lombardia, Evenepoel crashed over the side of a bridge and fell 10 to 12 metres into a ditch. His sports director Davide Bramati dashed down to help him but was spotted by television cameras removing items from his rider's back pocket. Scandal ensued, with Evenepoel left 'crying in his hospital bed' after the UCI ordered an investigation into the incident. Now, having been cleared of any wrongdoing, Evenepoel says he is still waiting for an apology from cycling's governing body and its president, David Lappartient.
"I never let go of Geert Van Bondt's hand and Davide Bramati relieved me of all my burdens: radio, helmet and all the food that was still in my pocket," Evenepoel explained, reliving that day with Sporza.
"Every rider knows that in the final there is a water bottle with sugars and a little caffeine. I think every rider who has to ride the final has something like that.
"I sent an email together with my parents to UCI president Lappartient. To say: is that necessary now? I never got an apology and that's something...the day I can use it, he'll know. It is a pity that the riders and the UCI are not allies."
As for the crash, Evenepoel says the mistake was that he second-guessed the other riders descending in front of him, and that he's talked the incident through with a psychologist as he worked his way back to being able to race in the peloton once again.
"I was the rider at the front with the least experience. Every rider in the leading group had already made a mistake. Nibali also almost hit the wall," Evenepoel recalled.
"What I blame myself for is that I didn't have to drop a gap in that descent. I saw on my little computer that we almost reached that bridge and started to brake. For fear: that is the most dangerous point of the course here, I will not take any chances. I thought if they fall in front of me, then I fall too. That was a mistake and I also discussed it with the psychologist. That's what I learned: my problem was that I didn't trust the men before me."
Sat at home watching Rohan Dennis tear up the Giro d'Italia he was supposed to be a part of was difficult to watch, as he had imagined he would be the young talent riding his way to victory, instead looking on as Tao Geoghegan Hart claimed the maglia rosa.
"That was the most painful thing I had to miss, I was so looking forward to making my debut in a Grand Tour. I was really ready and my form started to take off. The first days I found it difficult to watch, but after that I was able to accept it. It was a shame to see that trip over the Stelvio, for example, when you see that Dennis breaks everything down. My heart rate went up when I saw that. I saw myself in the wheel on my way to winning the Giro, but most dreams are a hoax, sure?"
As for the recovery, Evenepoel has said "communication errors" led to him getting back on the bike far too early in October last year, and that when his broken pelvis was refusing to close up he was worried about when he would be able to return.
"There were communication errors then, from me to the doctor, but now we have discussed everything to the last detail so as not to make the same mistakes. Whether I have been unsure? Of course, especially when we saw that the bone didn't really want to close up two months ago. After the rest period, you saw on the scan that there are still mini-openings, but the outside is closed. Fortunately, it has now evolved positively. Only the inside of the bone still needs to be strengthened."
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.