July is calling and Remco Evenepoel is ready to answer. The Soudal-Quickstep rider will make his Tour de France debut just ahead of his second appearance in the Olympic Games, a double goal into which he is pouring all of his energy.
Speaking to the media at the team’s presentation in Calpe, Spain, Evenepoel’s confident manner and adroit answers to reporters’ questions belied his age. At just 23 he’s one of the top riders in the world – twice a world champion, winner of a Grand Tour and a Monument – but he’s as eager as a neo-pro to make his Tour de France debut.
“The Tour de France and the Olympic Games in the same month are two of the most famous sports competitions in the whole world. [July] will be a very exciting month special month,” Evenepoel said. “Everything is focused on that month … where I have to perform at the highest level that I’ve ever done.”
Betting everything on a single month could be stressful for most athletes but for Evenepoel, having the Tour de France on his calendar gives a sense of purpose and relief.
“It’s just something that’s exciting – finally it’s there, it’s coming,” Evenepoel said. “I also feel it in my training. I’m super motivated to do every training to the detail – not 10 minutes less or 10 minutes more – just everything to the detail; perfect the diet, everything, because I’m so excited to start the Tour.
“It’s a new kind of energy that I haven’t felt for quite a long time. It’s only going to be a good thing knowing that I’ll be racing the Tour this year.”
Last year’s Grand Tours didn’t go to plan for the Belgian. He was leading the Giro d’Italia and won the stage 9 time trial before testing positive for COVID-19 and leaving on the first rest day. Then, in his Vuelta a España overall title defence, he had spent the weeks before building for the unified World Championships, where he won the time trial, and was lacking preparation for a Grand Tour but still came away with three stage wins.
“I feel a bit different in my head now than I was over the last summer,” he said. “After the COVID infection in the Giro, things got quite mad in every aspect. So it was a bit always up and down and finding the rhythm back, which wasn’t easy.”
Now that the rumours of a possible team transfer, then a now-scuttled merger of the team with the Jumbo-Visma squad, have ended with a stable future with Soudal-Quickstep, Evenepoel is more relaxed.
“It really changed, also training has gone pretty smooth. I will not be stressed if I cannot train…