Road

Evenepoel to ride Tour of Poland with eyes toward Il Lombardia

Tour de Pologne rolls out Wednesday, but Evenepoel isn't making continuing his unbeaten stage-race streak a priority.

The Remco hype show rolls into Poland Wednesday, but don’t go booking your tickets just yet.

Belgian superstar Remco Evenepoel is looking to this week’s Tour de Pologne – the first stage race of the rescheduled WorldTour calendar – as preparation for his debut monument at Il Lombardia rather than as an opportunity to add to his growing trophy cabinet.

Having ticked off his first major target of the season in style at the Vuelta a Burgos last week, Evenepoel is planning to take the five-stage race in Poland this week as it comes rather than battling to continue his 2020 run of three stage-race wins in three.

“Winning is not a must – it never is,” Evenepoel said Tuesday. “This race is 100 percent preparation for Il Lombardia. But if I can pick something up, I will not let it go.

“Burgos was more important for the Giro. Last week I proved that I can climb with the very best climbers. I will mainly use this week [in Poland] to finalize a few details so that I will be in top shape at the start of Lombardy.”

With the Giro d’Italia firmly at the center of Evenepoel’s sophomore season, the long climbs of northern Spain were a vital grand tour testing ground. While the multiple short sharp climbs on tap through Tour of Poland are far from the huge climbs of the Italian Alps, they will serve as favorable preparation for the rugged hills of Il Lombardia August 15 – and that’s where Evenepoel thinks this week’s Polish race will be won or lost.

“The profile of stages three and four is similar to the Ardennes, ” he said. “There the classification is decided. Without a time trial and real cols, the differences will be small. I estimate that about twenty riders can win.”

Evenepoel will lead a Deceuninck-Quick-Step team headed by youngsters, with 24-year-old James Knox supporting the GC bid and 23-year-old talent Fabio Jakobsen shooting for the sprints.

The Belgian squad will line up against a strong field that includes a number of other riders with the Giro in their long-view including Simon Yates and defending pink jersey Richard Carapaz, both of whom Evenepoel defeated in Spain last week. Esteban Chaves also made the trip from Burgos to Poland, while stars of Strade Bianche Max Schachmann and Jakob Fuglsang will further stiffen the competition for 20-year-old Evenepoel.

This week’s race will take place without the glare of the media or the cheers of roadside fans. Organizers made the call to go “behind closed doors” last month, and so with that, there will be little coverage of the Tour of Poland’s planned tributes to Bjorg Lambrecht, the young Belgian who was killed tragically at the race last year.

Evenepoel commemorated Lambrecht after winning the European championship time trial last year, and has something similar up his sleeve should he win in Poland this week.

“When I arrived in Poland, it started to play in my head,” Evenepoel said of last year’s terrible incident. “I have already heard that Bjorg will be specially honored today at the start. You know, we all love our job, but unfortunately, a lot of accidents happen, too often fatal as well. If I win this race, I want to do something special for Bjorg. What? I’m not going to reveal that, otherwise it’s no longer special. ”