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Remco Evenepoel and the Giro d’Italia: The right call or a missed opportunity?

With confirmation that Evenepoel is targeting the pink jersey, our editors debate what he gains and what he loses by putting the Tour de France on hold.

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Cycling’s worst-kept secret is out this week with confirmation that Remco Evenepoel will target the Giro d’Italia in 2023.

The Belgian superstar and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl revealed Wednesday that the Italian grand tour will be at the center of his plans next season.

Packed with time trial kilometers, the choice seems like the right one. Evenepoel also has some scores to settle with the Giro following his famous flameout in 2021.

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Yet what is Evenepoel giving up or gaining by putting the Tour de France on hold? The inevitable clash with Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard, both of whom seem likely to target the Tour next summer, is on ice until at least 2024.

Our European team dives in on the pros and cons of Evenepoel’s Giro choice:

Sadhbh O’Shea: Yes, Remco made right choice to race the Giro

Evenepoel will blast into 2023 with the rainbow bands on his shoulders. (Photo: DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

After his win at the Vuelta a España, the first for a Belgian since 1978, and his worlds win in Australia, Evenepoel’s next move was always going to be hotly debated.

While a title at the Tour de France was an appetizing choice, for many reasons, a Giro d’Italia bid is the right decision for the Belgian world champion.

There has been so much hype around Evenepoel since he started racing and that has tipped into overdrive since his Vuelta-worlds double. Had he gone to the Tour, it would likely have boiled over. Evenepoel’s debut at the Tour de France is always going to be hyped up to the max, but by delaying it another year he gets the chance to go for a second grand tour title with a little less pressure.

The Giro will still be intense for Evenepoel, but the Tour de France is on another level. It can wait another season, he has time. Anyway, his decision was made a lot easier by the unveiling of the two parcours in October.

Where the Tour de France offers just one time trial, a discipline that Evenepoel used to stamp his authority on the Vuelta, the Giro d’Italia has a mighty three. Though he is more than capable of holding his own on the big climbs, the more than 67km of time trialing is just too tempting to say no to. There is still plenty of climbing on tap to whet his appetite throughout the three weeks.

It remains to be seen what the GC line-up will look like next May but his biggest rival looks destined to be Primož Roglič, as it was at the Vuelta a España. Roglič left the Spanish grand tour at the beginning of the third week while poised to be Evenepoel’s biggest threat and their reunion at the Giro d’Italia is a tasty prospect.

Bring it on.

Andrew Hood: No, the Tour de France is where Remco’s future lies

Evenepoel is a rider capable of rewriting the history books. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Oh, Remco, what have you done?

First off, I am a huge fan of the Giro d’Italia. Despite — and perhaps because of — its inherent chaos, the Giro always strikes that perfect balance of drama, importance, and surprise that makes grand tour racing so enthralling.

Having said that, I think Evenepoel and Co. are wrong to put the Giro back on his radar right now.

Sure, with the time trial-heavy course and a string of second-tier rivals, Evenepoel will be the five-star favorite to win the Giro. In almost every metric, it makes perfect logic for Evenepoel to go to the Giro, fill out his grand tour resumé, win the pink jersey, and then carry that momentum, confidence, and experience into the 2024 Tour de France.

There’s only one problem with that logic — cycling is often illogical.

It’s rare that things ever go to plan. Just ask how things went for Tadej Pogačar and his plans for a third-straight yellow jersey in 2022.

If Quick-Step and Evenepoel are thinking that a direct confrontation with Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard is too much to handle in 2023, how will it be any easier in 2024?

Instead, Evenepoel will have all the pressure to win the Giro in 2023. If he does win and then finally goes to the Tour in 2024, the expectations will be piled on even more.

Evenepoel is no slouch when it comes to delivering on expectations. In fact, he’s one of those few top-tier riders who revel in defying and surpassing expectations.

So why sidestep a clash with peloton’s best grand tour riders in 2023 right now to race the Giro instead?

The Tour de France is where Evenepoel’s future lies. For 2023, he should barnstorm right into the fray, with the rainbow jersey on his back, and swing for the fences.

In fact, he’d have less pressure in 2023 if he did race the Tour for the first time than if he races to win the Giro now, and comes to the Tour in 2024.

Of course, he can still race the Tour in 2023 anyway. Whether the Giro goes right or wrong in May, Evenepoel could still race the Tour in July. And part of me thinks he will. It’s too much to resist the chance to make history in the rainbow jersey.

Evenepoel is young, and the team has done a great job at striking that balance between ambition, ability, and the harsh hierarchy of the peloton. Evenepoel is still growing and still improving, so in many ways, racing the Giro makes perfect sense.

But how many careers are interrupted by the unforeseen? A crash here, a wobble there, and another unexpected setback, and years can rattle off. Just ask Egan Bernal, who might return to the Tour this year after what will be a four-year span since he won in 2019.

Evenepoel should race the Tour de France in 2023. If it comes after the Giro, even better. But skipping it this year, while in the rainbow jersey and with all the momentum at his back, might be a mistake.

That will mean 2024 is a “learning year,” and in 2025, Evenepoel will be 25. That’s young by historical standards, but who knows if there’s another Remco waiting in the wings?

The sooner Evenepoel races the Tour the sooner he has a chance of winning the Tour.

An American in France

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