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Evenepoel tamped down rising speculation that he might step in for his injured Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammate Julian Alpahilippe at this summer’s Tour when he spoke on Sporza’s Extra Time Koers show this week.
“We haven’t even thought about it yet, and we won’t really,” Evenepoel said. “The plan is fixed.”
- Evenepoel on Liège: ‘The best Remco was out there today’
- Coach ‘very optimistic’ about rest of season for Julian Alaphilippe after horror Liège crash
Rumor mills began to churn when Evenepoel blasted to a huge victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège last weekend.
With Alaphilippe on the sidelines after being caught in the huge crash that blighted La Doyenne, could it be Evenepoel’s time to make a high-profile Tour debut in the Frenchman’s place?
Evenepoel and his team planned a racing roadmap tracing from the Tour of Norway next month to a starring role at the Vuelta in the late summer – and it’s staying that way.
“Klaas (Lodewyck, Quick-Step sports director) said in an interview that last year we made the mistake of changing and switching plans too much,” Evenepoel said. “We keep the tight schedule with the appropriate altitude training and the Vuelta.
“It doesn’t make much sense to change the schedule, because all the races I’ve ridden were very intense. From Valencia to Liège, everything was with very high average wattages and heartbeats. I need rest now.”
It’s been less than one week since Alaphilippe was sent catapulting into a tree in the dramatic crash at Liège.
The Frenchman is currently still in hospital after suffering several fractures and a hemopneumothorax, and while his coach is optimistic for a speedy comeback, no timelines have yet been set.
So, who might step into Alaphilippe’s Tour de France shoes should the worst come to the worst?
With Mark Cavendish all set to start the Giro d’Italia next week, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl will center its sprint train around Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour.
Quick-Step likely won’t want any climbers or extra leadout men, so a hard-kicking stage-hunter like Andrea Bagioli could get the nod. Just don’t start contemplating the idea of Cavendish getting the Tour de France call … or of him topping “that” record …
Evenepoel on social media: ‘I closed myself off from that for a long time’
Evenepoel also addressed the psychological side of the sport in his interview with Extra Time Koers.
Like Wout van Aert, Evenepoel holds a god-like status for bike-mad Belgian fans. The 22-year-old’s every move is monitored, his every word is reported. The high-profile fallout between van Aert and Evenepoel after the Leuven worlds in 2021 filled column inches for months.
Also read: Evenepoel and the weight of expectation
Evenepoel explained that working with team psychologist Michaël Verschaeve helped him learn to handle the burden of expectation and deflect the tide of opinion directed his way on social media.
“Since the fall in Lombardy until the start of the season, it was very difficult,” Evenepoel said of the social media swirl. “It revolved around me in all directions. Tips and comments came from all corners – subconsciously you take those things with you and you change as a person.
“But the last days before Liège I was very relaxed. Michaël came and after five minutes I already felt nothing needed to be discussed.”
“I closed myself off from [social media] for a long time, but now I’m calmer and I look at everything a bit again. I know I have a good entourage that helps me mentally and physically.”