Remco Evenepoel says his first victories of the year at the Belgium Tour is confirmation of him nearing his previous top-level not seen since his Il Lombardia crash last year.
In 2020, the 21-year-old Belgian won all four stage races he competed in before his terrible fall in the Italian Monument in August, and although his return to racing at the Giro d'Italia didn't necessarily go as planned, his performance on native Belgium roads is an important step forward ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s a big relief. After a long injury and a long way back it’s very special to win again, to know that you’re back where you were before," Evenepoel said after the race. "It’s a confirmation of the fact that we worked hard to return to this level and of the support I got from the team, which is something I am very grateful for."
Evenepoel says his individual time trial victory, in particular, has given him a mental boost as he looks to target the Belgian National Championships title this week in the build-up to going for Gold in Japan this summer.
"Winning the Belgium Tour again, and especially that ITT is also a mental boost ahead of the National Championships, shows it was a good decision to do this race, as it showed the progress I've made."
Deceuninck - Quick-Step went away from the race with two stage victories, after Mark Cavendish won the sprint on the final stage five, and had Evenepoel not finished second to Robbe Ghys (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) on stage one, it would have resulted in the spoils being shared exclusively between Patrick Lefevere's outfit and Lotto-Soudal's Caleb Ewan, who won stages three and four.
Evenepoel finished 46 seconds ahead of team-mate Yves Lampaert in the overall classification, with Brit Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic) managing seventh, 1-12 in arrears.
“We fought hard and we worked hard, and at the end of the day, Cav showed why he is the best sprinter in history. He is an amazing athlete and a real champion, and you could see that not just today, when he took the win, but also on the previous stages when he worked for me," Evenepoel said.
Whether he goes to an altitude camp before Tokyo is uncertain, all that is guaranteed is he will be on the start line in Japan and gunning for gold.
“I don't know yet if I will do an altitude camp. At altitude, you cannot train at the same intensity as at sea level, and in my case that intensity is more important and more beneficial for the future," Evenepoel explained. "Maybe I'll go to Spain. What is certain is that I will leave for Tokyo in early July.”
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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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