Remco Evenepoel enters “completely new” territory as he tries to battle for the time trial title in the World Championships. Given the 19-year-old has never raced such a distance, 54km, he is not putting pressure on himself for the win on Wednesday.
The Belgian faces competitors including compatriot and Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts, Vuelta a España Primož Roglič (Slovenia) and defending champion Rohan Dennis (Australia).
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“The goal? A top five. But if I don’t make it, I certainly won’t be disappointed,” Evenepoel told Het Nieuwsblad at a press conference.
“But I am naturally a winner, so I want to do it as well as possible.
“If I’ve done what I had to do, and there are others better, then that’s OK. That’s how sport works.”
The time trial covers 54 kilometres south from Northhallerton to Harrogate. Evenepoel, who turned professional this year after sweeping the 2018 junior time trial and road race world titles, has never gone such a distance in a time trial.
When he won the European Championships time trial this August 8, he did so over 22.4 kilometres.
“I certainly don’t want to be the last. We are not focused on one particular result,” he continued as he sat next to Belgian team-mates Campenaerts and Yves Lampaert.
“It is the first time that I will ride such a long time trial. I have never done that on a time trial bike before. I am curious how my body will respond to such an effort.”
Given how he responded in his debut season, much is expected from Evenepoel. Campenaerts called him the “absolute favourite” for the rainbow jersey.
He won the young rider classification in his first race, the Vuelta a San Juan, before winning a stage and the overall in the Baloise Belgium Tour and a stage in the Adriatica Ionica Race this year. And then this summer, to the surprise of many, he became the youngest winner of the Clásica San Sebastián.
Bradley Wiggins was the oldest winner when he won the time trial world title in 2014 and Evenepoel would easily become the youngest if he were to do so. Right now, that record is currently held by Australian Michael Rogers, who won in 2003 at 23 years old.
After a long first season in the WorldTour professional ranks, Evenepoel’s feelings are “good” heading towards the time trial
“I will have to feel [how fresh I still am] on Wednesday. I still feel good and I worked towards this time trial,” he added.
“Hopefully everything will fall into its place and I can close on Wednesday with a good feeling and a good result.”
His season includes the road race on Sunday, as well. The Belgian team selected him in its eight-man roster alongside top leaders Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert.