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Remco Evenepoel says sharing leadership with sprinters ‘risks division’ in future tilt toward yellow jersey

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl star after banner 2022: 'The Tour de France is the ultimate dream.'

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Remco Evenepoel says winning the Tour de France is the “ultimate dream,” but made no mystery that he wants the entire team working for him once he targets the French grand tour.

Evenepoel won the Kristallen Fiets trophy overnight as the best Belgian male rider — Lotte Kopecky won the women’s prize — and hinted that a return to the Giro d’Italia could be on his radar for 2023.

“The Tour de France ‘mission’ will now be given priority. One day I want to win there, too. That’s the ultimate dream,” Evenepoel told Het Laatste Nieuws. “That does not exclude an intermediate station in 2023. So far, the Giro d’Italia looks very nice.”

Evenepoel downplayed any sort of potential conflict between his grand tour ambitions and the presence of top sprinters Fabio Jakobsen and Tim Merlier, who joins Quick-Step for 2023.

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With team rosters now set at eight starters, however, many teams targeting the GC are leaving sprinters on the sidelines, but Evenepoel insists there’s room for everyone across the season, at least for next year.

Evenepoel was quick to add that if the team is targeting overall victory at a grand tour, it’s his preference not to divide forces between a GC push and the demands of a sprinter train.

“Yes. I like that better. Otherwise you risk division,” Evenepoel said of grand tour leadership. “That also applies to a sprinter, who deserves a strong leadout with at least two riders. Then the combination becomes difficult, isn’t it? Fabio and I get along well, and in a regular race I like to be part of his sprint train, but in a grand tour it is different.”

Evenepoel is adamant when he finally takes on the challenge of the Tour he wants the entire team working for him.

“Of course I will have to take our two sprinters into account when choosing a grand tour. But actually we can divide it neatly,” Evenepoel said for 2023. “You could say me for the Giro, Fabio to the Tour, and Tim to the Vuelta.”

Teams are waiting for the final details of the routes for all three grand tours next season, with the Giro and Tour courses to be revealed this month.

Team boss Patrick Lefevere isn’t keen on taking Evenepoel straight into a duel with Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard next season at the Tour, especially with the promise of building out the team to better support Evenepoel in grand tours for 2024.

Evenepoel confirmed he will race only one grand tour next season.

Looking ahead to next season, Evenepoel said he will likely copy what worked so well in 2022, when he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Clásica San Sebastián, the Vuelta a España and the road worlds.

“In the spring I will again ride a limited program, schedule training camps, and work on climbing and time trialing,” he said. “Actually, I can copy-paste my Vuelta preparation every year from now on, because that has worked well.”

Evenepoel says 2022 ‘won’t be easy to repeat’

Evenepoel says 2022 will be hard to repeat. (Photo: DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Evenepoel was celebrated overnight in a gala as the best Belgian male rider, which he wins for the second time in his young career.

With Belgium’s first grand tour win since the 1970s and the first rainbow jersey in a decade, he usurped Wout van Aert for the annual prize that he’s won the past two seasons.

Evenepoel said he wants to savor his success this season because he admitted it will be difficult to replicate.

“I won the Vuelta, but I think the worlds was what tilted the balance and brought me the Kristallen Fiets again after three years. To be named the best male rider of my country is special and unique, something for which I’m grateful, so I want to enjoy this moment, because it won’t be easy to repeat 2022,” Evenepoel said. “I had a great year and I think it was the victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège that changed everything and gave me the motivation and strength for the second part of the season, which was an incredible one.

“For next season, the main objective will be to keep evolving and to keep making progress together with the team, but first it’s time for holidays, to which I’m looking forward before getting on my bike again,” Evenepoel said.