Few riders can dream of reaching the podium at their Tour de France debut, but few riders have had the same meteoric rise to the top as Remco Evenpoel.
The Belgian has a top-three spot in his sights for a highly-anticipated debut at the Tour in July, but his campaign to get there begins at Saturday’s Figueira Champions Classic in Portugal, where he’ll look to “take a victory as quick as possible.”
Evenepoel’s pre-race press conference for his Portuese block of racing saw him place the Tour above any other goal, with Paris-Nice, the Ardennes Classics and the Olympics also identified as major objectives.
“There are so many goals, but a dream coming true for this year is to be on the podium in Nice,” said Evenepoel to media including Cyclingnews.
“The spot doesn’t matter just to be on the podium in Nice, that would be a dream come true.”
He’ll have a star-studded start list in his way come July with defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike), two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and four-time Grand Tour champion Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) also chasing the maillot jaune in a matchup for the ages.
But the young man has already achieved great things in the sport at only 24 so who’s to say he won’t have the ability when the Tour starts on June 29 in Florence?
There isn’t an early face-off in Portugal for Evenepoel with either of the trio mentioned, but the Vuelta winner who succeeded him, Sepp Kuss will be at the Volta ao Algarve and more than testing him up the race-deciding Alto da Fóia and Alto do Malhāo climbs.
The 24-year-old isn’t shying away from his big rivals, however, relishing that he’ll likely be racing Roglič at Paris-Nice in March and provisionally both the Slovenian and last year’s Tour winner Vingegaard at the pre-Tour Critérium du Dauphiné.
“For sure, we will see each other in Dauphiné and then three weeks in the tour. So it’s already quite a long period that we that we will race all together,” said Evenepoel.
“It’s always good to have them in the races where I will take the start line.”
The Figueira Champions Classic will be the first test for the Belgian champion on an “explosive” 222km route from São Pedro to Figueira da Foz. Evenepoel will have to navigate four laps of a hilly circuit, featuring category one and two climbs, around the coastal city if he is to start his 2024 season with a victory.
It’s the five days of racing in the Algarve that he’s more…