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Meet Mauri Vansevenant: Belgium’s next big thing

The 21-year-old hotshot has emerged as MVP for Julian Alaphilippe in the Ardennes and 'could be Belgium's best climbers in years.'

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He’s 21, rides for Deceuninck-Quick-Step, and can do it all. And no, he’s not Remco Evenepoel.

Get used to the name Mauri Vansevenant, because you’ll be hearing it for some time yet.

Riding his first full season in the WorldTour, the west Flandrien outkicked riders of the vintage of Bauke Mollema and Mikel Landa to win the GP Industria & Artigianato, placed 11th overall at Itzulia Basque Country, and has proven one of the revelations of the Ardennes classics.

Also read: Vansevenant wins GP Industria & Artigianato out of stellar escape group

And now Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s young pup is set to play wingman for world champ and father-figure Julian Alaphilippe at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“Mauri is a golden nugget,” Alaphilippe said ahead of Liège. “He has shown incredible things at such a young age. He has a strong character, but is a very sweet boy. Very eager to learn, too. I know that I am an example to him, so I try to advise and assist him. He will make a lot of progress. Don’t worry: we haven’t seen the last of that boy yet.”

Vansevenant shot into the world’s eyeview with a daring solo break at last year’s Flèche Wallonne last fall, and some six months later, showed that hailing from the windswept coastal city of Ostende doesn’t prevent a rider flourishing in the Ardennes hills.

The 21-year-old battled back from a crash and a mechanical to tow Alaphilippe through the final of Amstel Gold Race last weekend, and was one of the first to move on the Mur de Huy at Flèche on Wednesday. Now, after charting such a meteoric rise through the spring so far, Vansevenant will play wingman number-one for Alaphilippe at Liège.

Hitting stride faster than everyone expected

Mauri Vansevenant, GP Industria e Artigianato
Vansevenant took everyone by surprise when he won from an elite escape group at GP Industria. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Vansevenant was a late addition to the Liège line-up after initially being scheduled for downtime ahead of a tilt at Tour de Romandie. In a sign of his team’s increasing confidence after such a stellar start to the season, he may also be given a late call-up for the Giro d’Italia next month in what would be his grand tour debut.

After only making his WorldTour debut last September, few expected Vansevenant to make such rapid progress – not even Vansevenant himself.

“I thought my first year would be one of learning a lot and looking around,” Vansevenant said this week. “But I already play among the big boys – that is beyond any expectation. But learning and getting stronger every year is still the main goal.”

Should Vansevenant get the call for the “Corso Rosa” next month, he will line up alongside Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s “other” young ace, Remco Evenepoel.

Also read: Contador says Evenepoel and ‘Gen Z’ stars are redefining peloton

According to sport director Tom Steels, the young duo share climbing chops and a surprising turn of speed.

“He surprises us all at every race,” Steels told VeloNews in a recent phone call. “He’s intelligent. With those types of young riders, especially the climbers, you take time with them – but he could be one of the best climbers we’ve had from Belgium in recent years. I think he’s really on his way to becoming one of the best climbers on our team, and now he’s winning races from sprints already – that’s a shock also.”

Vansevenant’s victory from a four-up sprint at the GP Industria last month showed he’s not just a slow-twitch diesel, and his consistent ride through the relentless six days of Itzulia Basque Country hints at a versatility that defines many of the modern peloton’s top names, from Alaphilippe to Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar.

However, for Steels, it’s Vansevenant’s tactical savvy that stands him apart from other young riders.

“He reads finals very well and he never stops thinking how he can win the race,” Steels said. “He doesn’t get distracted or lose attention and he feels things well – that’s rare at his age.”

The returning Remco could be feeling the shadow of Vansevenant hanging heavy over him this season. Belgium’s newest big thing has a three-year deal in his pocket and the devotion of his Deceuninck-Quick-Step teammates and staffers at his side.

“He won’t win 10 races a season just yet, but always being up there with the best in the finals, he’s definitely proving what he can do. Now he just needs to be consistent – but there’s no pressure, he’s still young and is allowed to make mistakes,” Steels said. “But for sure, he has the qualities to grow and be one hell of a bike rider.”

The Mauri Vansevenant hype train is gathering momentum. Get on board while you can.