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Vuelta a Espana

Remco Evenepoel confident classics-crazed Quick-Step can deliver Vuelta a España support

Evenepoel: 'We showed today what a real GC team is all about.'

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GRADO, Spain (VN) — Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is renowned for its prowess in the bunch sprints and its dominance over the pavé of northern France and Flanders.

But winning grand tours? The long-running Belgian outfit boasts hundreds of sprint wins and major classics and monuments, but it’s never won a grand tour since Patrick Lefevere formed the team as general manager in 2003.

That could change as Remco Evenepoel continues to smash the pedals in the red jersey at the Vuelta a España.

Evenepoel buried any doubts Saturday at Collao Fancuaya, and quashed any notion about worries his teammates won’t be up to the task to protect him from here to Madrid.

“What we showed today is what a real GC team is all about,” Evenepoel said Saturday. “The team is giving it all for me.”

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“We will keep fighting and hoping for the stage win, but it’s far from over,” he said. “We have to do this for another two good weeks, starting with tomorrow. Then we can recover well on the rest day. Then it’s a new week, a new race plan.”

Evenepoel is leading the ‘Wolfpack’ into new territory

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is stepping up to back Evenepoel. (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The Lefevere-backed team is long accustomed to chasing stage victories or winning cycling’s monuments, but riding to defend a grand tour leader’s jersey is something new.

Rigoberto Urán was second in the 2014 Giro d’Italia. Pavel Tonkov was runner-up also at the Giro in 1997 and 1998 while riding in a Mapei jersey when Lefevere was sport director.

Evenepoel lauded his teammates on how the team rode in Saturday’s important stage when all eyes were on the team to see how it could handle the pressure of leading the race.

“What I saw today is a real GC team,” he said. “It’s a real strong team, I am just so proud of the boys that they’re doing all this for me.

“I can only be positive about today. The team showed the strength of the ‘Wolfpack.'”

Evenepoel passed his first test in flying colors

If Evenepoel is showing any signs of nerves, he’s not showing them. Saturday’s hard climbing stage into Asturias is the more challenging of the two this weekend.

“The start was really hard and everyone kept fighting. We controlled the race perfectly. We wanted to keep the gap at four minutes, and that’s what we did,” he said.

Evenepoel led the way up the upper reaches of the climb, with arch-rivals Enric Mas (Movistar) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) glued to his wheel.

“I had a perfect leadout train to the beginning of the climb, and then it was up to me,” he said. “From the moment I knew that only Mas, Roglic and Rodriguez were on the wheel, I kept pushing, pushing, pushing, and we only arrived with three guys.”

Evenepoel even pounced in the closing meters as no one was able to come around him as he gained even more time on other GC rivals.

“I can be really happy about today, and the team can be really proud,” he said. “This is something that will give us a big motivation boost for the second and the third week.”

Remco: ‘An honor to race against these guys’

Mas and Roglič are hanging close. (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

“For me it’s a big honor to be up there against a three-time champion like Roglič,” Evenepoel said. “These guys win grand tours, they’re on the podiums of grand tours.”

Only Mas and Roglič could stay close, and Evenepoel said he’s gaining confidence by the meter.

“Mas, in my eyes, is one of the best grand tour riders in the world. I am really proud that all my hard work pays off and I can measure myself with these guys.”