Remco Evenepoel has ruled himself out of contention for this year's Giro d'Italia, his debut Grand Tour coming too soon into his recovery from his serious crash last year. Instead, he will be focusing his ambitions for the season on the Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old won't even recon a single stage of the three-week stage race, the full route having been unveiled this week, putting his time into improving his condition as much as he can before the start in Turin on May 8.
Having only recently returned to training outdoors, Evenepoel will soon travel to Tenerife for the first of two altitude camps before the Giro, saying even climbing the local Muur van Geraardsbergen is a struggle for him in his current shape.
"I still have a long way to go," the Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider told Wielerflits. "I normally whistle up a short slope in the neighborhood. Now I'm gasping for breath. I noticed that yesterday when I trained with my team-mates on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. But that's normal if you've been inactive for four months. I now have to work on my base again, re-acclimatise to the long distances."
When in Tenerife, Evenepoel will be on his own programme, opting for shorter, three or four hour rides while his team-mates put six hours in on the bike. It may be a slow road back to the previous, impressive form that saw the youngster touted as a maglia rosa contender for the 2020 Italian Grand Tour before his crash at Il Lombardia, but he's made his peace with that.
"I travel to Italy with no ambitions or expectations," Evenepoel admits. "But I expect to get better there for three weeks. It is a choice we made to start the Giro without any other competitions. That's a risk, yes. We don't know whether that will turn out well or badly. But why should I be rushing? Three months is short anyway, I prefer to take the time to grow slowly."
As well as the Tokyo Olympic Games, the Vuelta a España could be an option for Evenepoel to contest a Grand Tour at the height of his powers, but for now, it's too early to say. When he feels how he used to on his local climbs, then thought can turn to Grand Tour leader's jerseys.
"That is still a long way off," he said of the Vuelta. "Let's first see where we're at after the Giro, without expectations and then work on to the summer [Olympics]. The Vuelta is an option, but these are worries for later. Let me get one hundred percent fit first, so that I can again hit the slopes in the neighborhood."
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.
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