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Climbing ace James Knox renewed with Deceuninck-Quick-Step as “the Wolfpack” prepares to hunt for major prey in the grand tours.
The team announced Tuesday that Knox, 25, would remain in Quick-Step blue through 2023 as it looks to bolster its ambitions around Remco Evenepoel.
“James is a rider that embodies the Wolfpack spirit – he always works so hard for his teammates,” team boss Patrick Lefevere said. “We have seen in the past that he is also capable of being a very good GC rider, so signing him adds options and strength to our climbing group and we are really happy to be keeping him for two more seasons.”
Knox is now a key part of Quick-Step’s growing GC artillery in his four seasons with the squad, riding to 11th and 14th in the Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia, respectively.
However, with Evenepoel ever more hungry for success and packing a five-year deal with the team, Knox is more likely to be drifting in the engine room for his young teammate than racing for himself.
“I have had two top-15 places in grand tours, so I can see that they are better for me, but the team has a lot of young talented riders, so maybe I am better utilized as a teammate,” Knox said. I can look at my own ambitions but maybe it is better that I help the big guys to continue to get the results.”
Remco Evenepoel hungry for grand tour success
Belgian sensation Evenpoel completed his comeback from his harrowing crash at the 2020 Il Lombardia this year, but was never quite in the center of the frame.
The 21-year-old rode high in the Giro to a wave of hype before flaming out with fatigue and injury, but finished the season on a tear with a string of lower category wins and swathe of near-misses at the world and European championships.
Next year, Evenepoel wants more – and he will need both personal strength and team resources to do it.
“I returned to an excellent level this year, but not yet what we wanted and hoped for with the team,” Evenepoel told La Derniere Heure this weekend.
“I have the possibility to be doing better but we still need patience. The time will come. You need to have the legs, know how to choose the moment and spend a winter without problems.
“I still have some steps to take before I can challenge [Tadej] Pogačar, [Egan] Bernal, and [Primoz] Roglič, and above all be able to beat them. I hope it will be the case as of next season.”
With João Almeida making the switch to UAE-Team Emirates in 2022, Deceuninck-Quick-Step is set to cluster solely around Evenepoel in the hunt for stage-race wins in 2022.
Packing a host of personal affiliations and being the leading sports star in Belgium means that Evenepoel, and more specifically, his team, needs to deliver to keep the zealous home crowd and media happy.
Enter riders like Knox, Pieter Serry, Mikke Honoré, and Fausto Masnada.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step has quietly amassed a small but underrated core of climbers capable of taking it to the likes of UAE-Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma, and it has been equally busy renewing their contracts.
Knox, Serry, and Honoré are all booked in through 2023, but Lombardia star and budding GC rider Masnada is still yet to commit to a new team.
If Remco wants to level with Pogo and Rogo, he’s not going to get there without Knox and co.