All eyes on Remco Evenepoel during Giro d’Italia
Now that the spring classics are over, the world of cycling is gearing up for the start of the three Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Belgians are especially looking forward to the Giro this year, as Remco Evenepoel, reigning world champion and last year’s Vuelta winner, has set his sights on one of the most prestigious races in the sport.
After many years as one of the biggest prospects in cycling, the young Belgian truly made a name for himself in 2022. In just one month, the 23-year-old became world champion and secured Belgium's first Grand Tour victory in over 35 years with a commanding Vuelta win.
Some fans were disappointed that Evenepoel chose to skip the fight for the yellow jersey this season when he chose the Giro d'Italia over the Tour de France. This year’s Giro offers three time trials, one of this strengths, while the Tour features just one.
Slow and sensible
Despite his dominance in 2022, Evenepoel has been careful to take his career slowly. This decision to focus on the Giro is no exception. Winning the gruelling Tour de France is generally considered to be the most prestigious feat in the sport, and Evenepoel has only finished two Grand Tours in his career. In Italy, he will be able to gain experience in a familiar setting.
He will also avoid the sky-high expectations reserved for a world champion taking on the Tour de France. Expectations will be high, no matter where he races, but participating in the Giro will allow him to avoid the added pressure of the Tour, one of the most-watched sporting events in the world.
"I'm even better than last year in the Vuelta, I think”
Finally, by skipping the Tour de France he will have more than two months of preparation time for the UCI World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, which will take place in August. Participants of the Tour de France, which takes up most of July, will have just two weeks to recover. Due to his focus on the Giro, Evenepoel also skipped most of the one-day spring classics.
Favourite for the pink jersey
Evenepoel's season started well. Evenepoel won the general classification of the UAE Tour and dominated the opposition during Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Primoz Roglic, meanwhile, recently saw two of his strongest teammates abandon the Giro due to Covid-19 infections, making Evenepoel the favourite to win the pink jersey.
If Evenepoel is successful, he will become the first Belgian since 1978 to win the Giro d’Italia. He seems confident. "I had the perfect preparation. I come to the start with only good feelings," he said on Thursday. "I'm even better than last year in the Vuelta, I think.”
The Giro starts on 6 May with a time trial, with Evenepoel scheduled to start at 16.35, and will end three weeks later, on 28 May.
© BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS