“It’s all announced that Remco’s gonna stay for many years in the team, so of course we’re going to focus on grand tours a lot more now,” sport director Klaas Lodewyck told VeloNews. “That’s Remco’s big objective, and we equally want to win a grand tour with him – that’s no secret.”
With Evenepoel signed through 2026, Deceuninck-Quick-Step has locked-in its first legitimate GC contender since the brief two years that Rigoberto Urán spent with the team.
Evenepoel’s mammoth five-year deal is a landmark move for team manager Patrick Lefevere and his typically tight purse-strings. For Deceuninck-Quick-Step, the long-term presence of the young Belgian star not only makes for a glittering bargaining chip in sponsor negotiations, but also rubber-stamps a growing grand tour ambition.
That long-term ambition starts proper this weekend – Almeida’s ride to fourth-place last year was a mere antipasti.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step lines up Saturday with a strong bench backing up its two leaders, with top climbers James Knox and Fausto Masnada both returning to Italy after punching into the top-15 at last October’s race.
Next year, the team may be coming back even stronger.
The rumor mill suggests that Almeida will be on the move at the end of the season after reported interest from a clutch of rival teams. With the Portuguese likely to be on the way out, Lefevere will need to expand his artillery to support Evenepoel’s GC dreams – but will also have the spare dollar to do it.
“The GC is something new we’re going to work on for the future,” Lodewyck said. “We have Masnada, Knox, they’re very good climbers.
“But like you see also at many other GC teams, you always need one or two extra guys, you never know what’s going to happen with others at a grand tour. We’re working on it.”
Nobody knows how far Evenepoel will go in the next month after his long layoff with injury and rehab, and it seems more likely Almeida will be the team’s focal point after his breakout 15 days in pink last October.
Although the 22-year-old may no longer be in Quick-Step blue in 2022, this month’s ride through Italy will offer Quick-Step’s backroom a taste of the next five years as it targets grand tour glory with Evenepoel.
So, wait, is that it? No more cobblestone-bashing after decades of dominance in the classics?
Just think of it as a broadening of horizons rather than a total pivot away from the mucky mayhem of spring.
“I’m not Patrick [Lefevere], but we have been a classic team for a very long period,” Lodewyck said. “So I think that’s always going to be very important for us.”
“But with Remco now, you cannot expect to go a grand tour with only two strong climbers and Remco. So for sure, I think probably that’s something Patrick is working on. I’m as curious as you to see how the team will look next year.”
The staffers are intrigued, and we sure are too.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s grand tour ambitions get rolling when Evenepoel pushes down the start ramp on Saturday. It will be a ride well worth watching.