CALPE, Spain (VN) — A year is a long time in the young professional career of Remco Evenepoel. Twelve months ago, more than 100 Belgian journalists trekked to the sunny climes of Spain’s Costa Blanca to document Evenepoel’s first professional team training camp.
Flash forward a year, and there are still quite a few journalists stumbling over themselves for the Deceuninck-Quick-Step media day, but Evenepoel is something of a grizzled veteran after his breakout rookie season. It’s not quite routine yet, but Evenepoel has quickly grown accustomed to being the center of attention.
Evenepoel, who is still a teenager for the next two weeks, will race a veteran calendar in his sophomore effort. On Friday, team officials confirmed the Belgian phenomenon will make his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia in May.
“I am really looking forward to being present in my first three-week race, the Giro d’Italia, a huge and prestigious event that captures one’s imagination,” he said Friday. “I am happy that the team have put their faith in me and gave me this amazing opportunity.”
The Giro is the next step in the very fast progression for the budding superstar. Last year, he made the jump from the junior ranks straight into the WorldTour. And he did it by joining Belgium’s biggest and most successful team. He quickly lived up to the hype, and delivered on some early season chest-pounding with a string of early-season results. Evenepoel won five races in 2019, including a daring solo victory at the Clásica San Sebástian and a stage win and the overall at the Tour of Belgium. He capped it all off with silver in the world time trial championship.
For 2020, Evenepoel is setting his sights on even bigger fish. Like he did last year, he’ll debut his season at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, with a spring schedule built for speed to get him ready for the Ardennes classics and the Giro in May.
Team insiders believe that Evenepoel can develop into a grand tour rider, especially with his time trial motor. Others say it’s too soon to know how he can handle the high mountains and recovery that are essential for becoming a grand tour contender. Right now, Evenepoel isn’t looking too far down that road, insisting that he’s going to the Giro to learn and to build on the momentum of his breakout 2019 season.
“It will be quite a big experience to see how I will feel and cope with the three weeks of demanding racing and the hurdles lying ahead, but at the same time, I’m very excited to just discover the Giro,” he said. “The plan is to take it day by day, see how things will go, give my best every time and enjoy it while continuing to learn.”
The Giro is the ideal first grand tour for Evenepoel, especially how it falls into place for the rest of his calendar. The Olympic Games in Tokyo will be his season’s top focus, assuming he makes Belgium’s selection as expected, with chances for a medal in both the road race and time trial. Late-season goals include the world championships and the Giro di Lombardia.
Next year, there could be more journalists than ever if Evenepoel hits one of his big targets in 2020.