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Vuelta a Espana

Patrick Lefevere says Remco Evenepoel is ‘completely different rider’ from last year’s Giro d’Italia

Lighter and more experienced, Evenepoel looking better than ever ahead of Vuelta a España debut.

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Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl boss Patrick Lefevere says the Remco Evenepoel that the peloton will see at the Vuelta a España later this month is nothing compared to the rider who abandoned from his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia last year.

The 22-year-old Evenepoel is hot off winning the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday, and Lefevere said that explosive performance is just a hint of what fans and rivals should expect at the Spanish grand tour.

“It is pointless to compare the Remco of the Giro with the Remco that will soon be racing the Vuelta,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. “He has become a completely different rider.”

Lefevere is a staunch backer of the budding Belgian superstar, but cautioned that his young protege is not racing the Vuelta to win, but rather to learn.

“Remco is a better athlete in every way, but that does not mean that he will ride the Vuelta to win it. Above all, we want him to grow as a racer,” he told the Belgian daily. “He will start fresh and the past has proven that he races better. We aim to win a stage with him and then we’ll see how far he gets in the standings. That’s all you need to look for behind our ambitions.”

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Speaking to the media ahead of last weekend’s Clásica, Evenepoel echoed those same observations.

He said he’s 2kg lighter than two years ago, and enters the Vuelta with modest GC ambitions but with motivation to light up the race to win at least one stage. Following a three-week altitude camp in Italy, Evenepoel opted not to race this week’s Vuelta a Burgos, and will cool his jets until the August 19 start in the Netherlands.

“It’s difficult to say I have a specific GC goal at the start of the race,” Evenepoel said. “If I can go out of the Vuelta with a stage win or two, then you speak about it being a good Vuelta. The main thing is to win a stage. The GC will be extra.”

Team trainer Koen Pelgrim also said the preparation for this Vuelta is much better than last year’s Giro, which saw Evenepoel abandon in the final week after recovering from his horrific crash into a ravine at the 2020 edition of Il Lombardia.

“Thanks to such a broader base, he should be able to recover faster from efforts, perform more stably and maintain his condition for three weeks,” Pelgrim told the daily. “Doing more descents has only increased his confidence. By using him in the sprint train, he has also learned to find his way in the peloton even better.

“He can now save energy much more easily by being in the right position and you will no longer see him waste his powers,” he said. “That it will be his second grand tour is also something that should give him more peace of mind. He now knows what is coming his way.”