Remco Evenepoel may not be racing the Tour de France for a few years yet, but seeing then-21-year-old Tadej Pogačar taking the yellow jersey this weekend is fuelling the young Belgian’s ambition for the future.
The 20-year-old star is still recovering from the horror crash at Il Lombardia that left him with a broken hip, and is hoping to make a return to racing next year. Having seen his plan to race the 2020 Giro d’Italia go up in smoke when he plummeted off the ravine in the heart of Lombardy last month, Evenepoel is resetting his grand tour ambitions for next year.
“I plan to race the Tokyo Olympics, so I will have to make choices, because it is not possible to combine the Tour and the Games,” Evenepoel told RTBF when asked if he will make a Tour de France debut in 2021. “In December, we should know if the Games will take place or not. And there we will see what grand tour I will race.”
Having spent his afternoons convalescing watching Pogačar take a dramatic GC victory at the Tour de France, and with Egan Bernal having taken the yellow jersey in 2019 at the age of 22, ever-ambitious Evenpoel is inspired to continue the trend toward young Tour champions.
“Seeing two 22-year-old guys win the Tour, that motivates me,” he said Sunday. “There are three grand tours but the Tour de France is a bit above it. It’s the biggest race of the year.”
First things first, Evenepoel needs to return to full fitness, but the signs are looking good five weeks after his crash.
“I’m making progress every day,” he said. “I feel good. I’m staying calm. I’ll do some tests next week and we’ll see the results and how things go.”
“I take small steps forward every day,” he continued. “It’s good for morale. This is only positive news. Even if obviously going from riding every day to nothing at all, it’s very hard. Fortunately, there were races to watch [on television] which made the afternoons go by a little faster.”
Sickening images of Evenepoel hitting a low wall and plummeting into a ravine on the descent of the Sormano climb at Il Lombardia will stick in the memory of some for a long time. Fortunately, the young Belgian knows little about it.
“I don’t remember how I hit the wall,” he said. “The last images I remember were looking down at the ground, seeing a black hole and not seeing where I was going to fall.”