Belgian Remco Evenepoel found his space immediately among the WorldTour teams despite being only 19-years-old and coming straight from the junior ranks for 2019.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Belgium’s super-team, signed the junior road and time trial world champion after an amazing 2018 season where he won almost every race. He went right to work.
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Evenepoel is racing this week in Argentina at the Vuelta a San Juan with stars including Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).
In the opening stage, he rode at the sharp end, attacked and even received a compliment from Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
“It was actually very nice to race in such a group. It was… quiet. Compared to the juniors really quiet,” said Evenepoel who celebrated his 19th birthday just last week.
“I avoided one crash. Really I had to jump aside to stay away from it. So I also experienced that. Well I proved again that I really can ride in a peloton.
“I was consistent in the first 20 or 30 riders, without problems. I even received a compliment from Sagan, he told me that I was right at the best. It’s motivating.”
Evenepoel arrived back at the team’s van beyond the finish line. They worked for Alvaro Hodeg, who could only manage fifth behind Fernando Gaviria’s sprint win. He appeared at ease with his surroundings, complementing Iljo Keisse for his work and shaking the hand of Petr Vakov, who returned from a year away due to a spinal injury.
“Peter Sagan congratulated me for how I rode in the group,” he said again. “We had a talk, a little chat together, and it’s nice that the big riders already respect me like that. I just have to respect them also.”
Evenepoel dominated the junior ranks. He won all four stage races he began, the Worlds time trial with a minute-plus buffer and the road title with a 20km solo attack.
With 23 wins in 2018, WorldTour teams fought to get Evenepoel in their rosters even if he was still a junior racer. With the palmarès and the cool character, he appears to have it all.
Given his ride and coolness, it is hard to imagine the 19-year-old was nervous to begin his first race among the professionals and WorldTour teams.
“Sure I was nervous. I talked with Iljo this morning and he was also nervous,” Evenepoel added. “If you’re not nervous for a race then you are not focused on you job and you are not a real pro. It’s a common thing in the peloton. I’m still 19, yeah, and he’s 36, and nervous also.”
Evenepoel will race the Vuelta a San Juan over the next week and in February face Chris Froome and other stars at the UAE Tour.