Road

Remco Evenepoel uncertain of 2021 schedule as recovery takes downturn

Belgian phenom's comeback takes U-turn as nagging issues force him to take a break from training.

Remco Evenepoel has been forced to squeeze the brakes on his comeback from injury.

Speaking at an online Deceuninck-Quick-Step team presentation Wednesday, the 20-year-old revealed that after initial signs of optimism, the rehab of the broken pelvis he sustained in a horror crash this summer has taken a downward tilt.

“I have a surprise for you guys,” Evenepoel said to an online conference stacked with expectant media. “I mean, there were some small difficulties, and it’s all still part of the process of the rehab, but to be honest, we don’t know yet when and where I will be able to restart [the season]. We’ve seen the comeback has go down a bit down to give myself and my body the time to to get ready for 100 percent to go back on the bike.

“I still had some small problems,” he said. “I didn’t feel really comfortable on the bike, so for now we don’t know when and where I will be able to restart.”

The Belgian wunderkind spoke from a team press conference Wednesday in Spain as the press corps expected him to outline race schedules, goals and ambitions. Having been back on the bike since November and previously stating that the rehab process from his Il Lombardia was going well, Evenepoel dropped the bombshell that his comeback has taken a U-turn.

“I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know the specific words but it’s just a bit of pain in the area where the fractures were, so sitting down on a saddle I mean it’s still quite hard for a few hours,” he said. “So I mean this needs to get fixed 100 percent before being able to perform 100 percent on the bike.”

Evenepoel said that he has been off the bike during the team’s training camp this week, instead taking part in “other cardio” activities.

“We stepped off the bike for a few weeks already, but I’m still able to do some cardio training like walking and swimming … but it’s all going well,” he said.

Evenepoel’s first major goal for the season is due to be the Giro d’Italia this May in what will be his debut grand tour. When asked whether the setback would impact his ability to comeback in time for the race rolling out in five month’s time, Evenepoel was adamant that he’s still further down the road to recovery than initially anticipated.

“I’m not behind because from the first day on we said that that we were trying to be 100 percent on the bike again in February,” he said.

Evenepoel’s comeback was set to be one of the stories of the season. The young Belgian refused to put a timeline on when that much-anticipated return to racing may be.

“We have time, we will see,” he said. “It’s difficult to say how the preparation will go. We will see.”