Figueira Champions Classic: Remco Evenepoel rides to victory alone to kick off season

Soudal Quick-Step's Tour de France hopeful begins his 2024 campaign in perfect fashion, attacking with over 50km to ride and soloing to the line

Clock17:15, Saturday 10th February 2024
Remco Evenepoel has made a habit of winning in his Belgian national champion's kit

© Tim de Waele/Velo Collection via Getty Images

Remco Evenepoel has made a habit of winning in his Belgian national champion's kit

Remco Evenepoel of Soudal Quick-Step laid down a marker on the opening day of his season, winning the Figueira Champions Classic in style ahead of Vito Braet (Intermarché-Wanty) and Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan).

The Belgian made his race-winning move 54km from the finish and after his initial burst of acceleration, Evenepoel would not be seen again. It was a trademark display from the former world champion, who quickly hunched his shoulders over the bars and rode a pseudo-time trial for the rest of the race.

It was a deserved display of dominance for Soudal Quick-Step, who had offered up a frightening pace at the front of the peloton for most of the afternoon. James Knox was the last man to lead out Evenepoel before he made his devastating move.

To his credit, UAE Team Emirates' Isaac del Toro had the bravery to hit out alone in pursuit of Evenepoel, but the youngster's bold move would prove futile in the face of the Belgian's souplesse.

In the end, Evenepoel finished 1:48 ahead of the swelled chasing group, which decided the final two podium places in a sprint. It was Braet who took the initiative to produce a lengthy sprint for second, whilst Velasco offered up a handy turn of speed to take third.

Portuguese and Spanish alliance in the breakaway

Offering a tough day in the saddle ahead of next week's Volta ao Algarve, the Figueira Champions Classic was a hotly-anticipated event, not least because it would see Remco Evenepoel make his season debut.

As a two-time winner of Clásica de San Sebastián, the Belgian would feel comfortable on a punchy route that would be decided over five categorised climbs within the final 80km. Ahead of a tough sting in the tail, however, the peloton was keen to see a manageable breakaway head up the road.

After some to-and-fro, the break finally went clear after 64km of racing and consisted purely of Portuguese and Spanish riders. Within the seven-rider group lay Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), José Félix Parra (Equipo Kern Pharma), Andre Carvalho (Sabgal / Anicolor), Afonso Euláio (ABTF Betão-Feirense), Bruno Silva (Tavfer-Ovos Matinados-Mortágua), Luís Fernandes (Credibom / LA Alumínios / Marcos Car) and Hugo Nunes (Rádio Popular-Paredes-Boavista).

Their advantage over the pack reached nigh-on five minutes at its peak but was swiftly reduced when Soudal Quick-Step made their presence known. Such was the ferocity of their pace-setting, the breakaway was caught with 86km still to ride.

Evenepoel drops the hammer, to no effective response

After much anticipation and tremendous riding from his teammates, Evenepoel made his grandiose attack 54km from the finish. No doubt forlorn by Evenepoel's condition, his rivals initially failed to cooperate and this allowed the Belgian's advantage to quickly exceed a minute.

Although no chase proved effective, Isaac del Toro (UAE Team Emirates) will be credited for his aggressive riding, which initially saw the Mexican set off in pursuit alone with 40km to go.

The winner of stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under produced a brave ride that had the advantage reduced to 20 seconds, but Evenepoel was spurred on by the challenge and soon put the hammer down to dispatch Del Toro's ambitions.

For the final 30km, Evenepoel was on a victory march, never letting up but never looking in any difficulty, as the appreciative Portuguese crowds bowed to the 24-year-old with their arms outstretched. As we have seen time and time again, the Soudal Quick-Step man was producing a performance for the ages.

Caught with 25km to ride, Del Toro would tussle with the rest of the chasing group for the rest of the race. The likes of Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar), António Morgado (UAE Team Emirates) and Florian Stork (Tudor Pro Cycling) all showed their team's colours, but the chasing group eventually swelled to a large cohort.

Movistar and Tudor Pro Cycling were both well represented, but it was Alpecin-Deceuninck who led the group into the final kilometre for a sprint for second and third.

Race Results

1

be flag

EVENEPOEL Remco

Soudal Quick-Step

4H 42' 25"

2

be flag

BRAET Vito

Intermarché-Wanty

+ 1' 48"

3

it flag

VELASCO Simone

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

4

nl flag

BOVEN Lars

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

5

de flag

MAYRHOFER Marius

Tudor Pro Cycling Team

"

6

ch flag

HIRSCHI Marc

UAE Team Emirates

"

7

nl flag

VAN DEN BERG Marijn

EF Education-EasyPost

"

8

it flag

SCARONI Cristian

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

9

pt flag

GUERREIRO Ruben

Movistar Team

"

10

es flag

SANCHEZ Pelayo

Movistar Team

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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