This time two years ago, Remco Evenepoel dutifully talked the talk before the start of the Giro d’Italia, but deep down, he must already have known he was trying to run before he could walk. He returns to the Corsa Rosa this weekend altogether surer of his footing and brimming with quiet confidence.
In 2021, Evenepoel’s Grand Tour debut also marked his return to competition after breaking his pelvis eight months previously. Despite a bullish start, it proved to be a miracle too far even for a man who had been routinely producing marvels to that point.
Two years on, Evenepoel stands on firmer ground. He lines up for the Giro with the rainbow jersey of world champion on his back and a Vuelta a España title inscribed on his palmarès. He arrives in Italy fresh from a second straight Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory and with seamless months of preparation behind him.
In Pescara on Thursday afternoon, Evenepoel was asked in what areas he had improved since his previous, truncated Giro appearance.
“In everything,” Evenepoel responded somewhat abruptly.
“For the Giro 2021, we cannot compare the kind of rider and athlete I am now. Then I had just five weeks of training beforehand against five months now. It’s a completely different world and life.”
For Evenepoel, the more telling comparisons are with his approach to last year’s Vuelta. Back then, he also had an extended spell at altitude in the build-up, but he came down from the mountain to deliver a solo exhibition at the Clàsica San Sebastiàn that doubled as a statement of intent for the Vuelta.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège offered a similar opportunity ahead of the Giro. Evenepoel, inevitability, seized it. Asked to rate his current form against his condition ahead of last year’s Vuelta, he saw little point in playing coy.
“I think I can be honest about that,” Evenepoel said. “I think I’m better than before the Vuelta, so it’s only good news.
“I think I can be here only with positive feelings. This season has been very good so far. I won the UAE Tour, I was second at Catalunya by a small margin, and victory in Liège is a new big step in my career and in my life. Until here, I can have a lot of trust and belief. I think I’m here with a lot of positive vibes and good feelings for the Giro.”
When Mauro Vegni unveiled the Giro route in Milan last October, it was hard to shake off the impression that it had been designed with Evenepoel’s gifts in mind. On paper, at least, this Giro…
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