Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel were in a relaxed mood at the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl pre Vuelta a España press conference this afternoon.
After a season filled with injury and illness, Alaphilippe's comeback will see him target stage wins at the Spanish Grand Tour whereas Evenepoel is the Belgian team's protected rider in the general classification battle.
The opening stages of this year’s Vuelta are in the Netherlands, beginning with tomorrow's opening day team time trial in the city of Utrecht. After confirming that he would ride behind Evenepoel in the team time trial, Alaphilippe joked about his chances of holding the tempo of the Belgian.
He said: “Pray for me! The only problem for me is that I will have a lot of mosquitoes on my window [time trial helmet visor] because Remco is so aero. I’ll always be in the wind!”
Evenepoel added, “We are all looking forward to it and are focussed on tomorrow. I think the dream of our team will be to win the opening stage that’s for sure… we’re just going to give our maximum as fast as possible and then we will see after that what the results will be.”
Evenepoel won both Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Clásica de San Sebastián this year to demonstrate that he is in outstanding form. Furthermore the Belgian is also widely regarded as a formidable time trialist.
Reflecting back on recent months, Alaphilippe admitted that he has had far from an ideal season. The reigning World Champion crashed out of Liège suffering horrific injuries ruling him out of the Tour de France.
His misfortune would continue as he then tested positive for Covid-19 right after making a comeback to racing.
He said: “Of course, it hasn’t been an easy season for me. Now I’m just looking forward to racing here and I’m happy to be here. I have a lot of motivation to ride a good Vuelta.”
Alaphilippe added: “Remco will be our leader for the GC, that’s clear. He can count on the full support of the team. But I think it’s really important to take it day after day, for now we are focussed on the team time trial.”
Looking ahead to when the racing moves back to Spain next Tuesday, Evenepoel concluded that not losing too much time tomorrow will be crucial ahead of a difficult following few days.
He said, “the first week is already going to be difficult. We all already know that the north of Spain is a difficult area to race in… the best thing would be if we could combine in the first week a stage win, along with a good GC spot with no time loss ahead of the time trial in Alicante.”
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