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Contador backs Bernal for Tour, Verbrugghe sees Evenepoel shine in Giro

Contador cites Bernal, Froome, Quintana as Tour favorites, Belgian coach thinks Evenepoel will light up his first grand tour.

Bernal, Froome, Quintana top Contador’s list of Tour favorites

Alberto Contador thinks Egan Bernal (Ineos) has the cojones to defend his Tour de France title this year.

“If I had to say which is the top favorite to win the Tour de France, I would definitely say Egan Bernal,” the retired Spaniard said this week.

Speaking on radio program VBAR, Contador recognized that Bernal’s teammate Chris Froome could be a top contender for snatching away the yellow jersey from the young Colombian.

“Froome still has the potential to win the Tour,” Contador said. “He knows, just like Bernal, what it means to win the race. They both have the potential and know what it is to win.”

Bernal threw a cat among the pigeons earlier this month by stating he would not sacrifice his chances at a second Tour title in support of Froome or Geraint Thomas. Contador, himself the veteran of high-profile leadership battles, empathized with the 23-year-old’s statement of intent.

“It was the response of a champion, he should not be uncomfortable,” Contador said. “In the end, he said he has things clear, he knows that the Tour is the biggest race and he wants to try to win. He has said that if he gets there and sees that there is a stronger one, he will help, but he does not want to resign before going to France.”

Contador, winner of the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, also touted Nairo Quintana as a hot favorite for this summer’s Grande Boucle. The Arkéa-Samsic rider is looking back to his best after a hot start to the season, and has rediscovered his swagger with his new team.

“There are many people who do not back him, but he has hit the top this year,” Contador said. “He has been intractable in all the high finals, nobody has been able to follow him. For me, of course, he still has options to fight for the Tour.”

Jumbo-Visma pair Primož Roglič and Tom Dumoulin wound up lower on Contador’s betting slip due to their relative lack of grand tour-winning experience.

Belgian national coach Verbrugghe backs Evenepoel for Giro success

Giro success and maybe a stage win for Evenepoel? ‘Why not?,’ says coach. Photo: James Startt

Rik Verbrugghe sees young hotshot Remco Evenepoel lighting up this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Evenepoel will be starting his first-ever grand tour this season in what will be just his second year in the WorldTour. Many had touted the 20-year-old to bag the pink jersey on the very first stage when the Giro was due to start with a short prologue in Budapest. However, with coronavirus putting an end to the race’s Hungarian start, the opening days of the race are now to take place on to-be-confirmed courses in Italy.

If RCS Sport decides to schedule another prologue to open the Giro this October, the Belgian national coach thinks time-trial talent Remco can take pink. “It is quite possible,”  Verbrugghe told RTBF Thursday. “The prologue should suit him.”

Whether Evenepoel captures the leader’s jersey on the very first stage or not, Verbrugghe thinks the youngster will flourish through the Giro’s duration. “I think he has the qualities to shine over three weeks,” he said.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step had initially planned to give Evenepoel a two-week taster of grand tour racing before pulling him out before the Giro’s mountainous final week. However, after a spring in lockdown and several early-season targets being put on pause, Verbrugghe sees Evenepoel going all the way to the final stage in Milan.

“The original idea was that it will be two weeks on the Tour of Italy,” Verbrugghe said. “What about today? Will the initial plan be respected? Is an abandonment still planned? We feel that the riders have the fire. They have a lot of energy. They want to ride as much as possible… Maybe Remco will want to he will test himself over three weeks rather than two.”