Lefevere: ‘Can Remco recover in this Vuelta? Not a clue’

Soudal-QuickStep boss says that Remco Evenepoel must ride with ‘anything goes’ attitude

Evenepoel finishing the Tourmalet stage well off the pace
Evenepoel finishing the Tourmalet stage well off the pace
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Soudal-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere said he had as little idea as anyone else about the reasons for his team leader Remco Evenepoel’s totally unexpected collapse of form on the Tourmalet stage of the Vuelta a España that saw the Belgian lose all hope of retaining his title. In his column in Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad, Lefevere admitted: ‘I, like everyone else who was following the race on television, had no idea of the reason for Remco’s off-day.

‘At the moment, I still don’t have one. What is certain is: he did not start the stage sick. Only on the Aubisque did I see the same face I saw in the Giro after the time trial,’ Lefevere added, referring to Evenepoel’s loss of form during the Giro d’Italia back in May, which was the result of Covid and resulted in him abandoning that race when leading. ‘I sincerely hope we don’t end up later with the same reality as then: sickness – corona, it shouldn’t happen again.’

On the question of whether Evenepoel could bounce back in the Vuelta, Lefevere confessed he was equally oblivious. ‘Can Remco recover in this Vuelta? Not a clue. Our doctors don’t know what’s going on yet, so I myself certainly don’t. If he gets up healthy, he will step into a new reality: racing with the idea of “anything goes, nothing is out of the question”. Remco has never actually been granted that.'

Turning to the question of Jumbo-Visma’s dominance of the Tourmalet stage, which saw Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss and Primož Roglič finish first, second and third and also fill the top three positions in the overall classification, Lefevere said he believed that there’s no reason for any doubt about their performances. ‘First of all: Sepp Kuss, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard are anything but coming out of nowhere. They’re top talents, with the rather unique combination of a light body and a gigantic engine.’

Lefevere also pointed out that his team has been in a similar position in the past in one-day races, their riders twice filling the top three places at Paris-Roubaix. ‘Besides power, VO2 Max and who knows what else, success in cycling also depends, fortunately, on those kinds of immeasurable, untrainable mental mechanisms. Winning always makes you win more often.’

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Peter Cossins has been writing about professional cycling since 1993, with his reporting appearing in numerous publications and websites including Cycling WeeklyCycle Sport and Procycling - which he edited from 2006 to 2009. Peter is the author of several books on cycling - The Monuments, his history of cycling's five greatest one-day Classic races, was published in 2014, followed in 2015 by Alpe d’Huez, an appraisal of cycling’s greatest climb. Yellow Jersey - his celebration of the iconic Tour de France winner's jersey won the 2020 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Cycling Book of the Year Award.