Patrick Lefevere wishes Remco Evenepoel had targeted Giro d'Italia this season
Soudal Quick-Step team boss would have liked the Belgian to ride both the Giro and Tour de France to alleviate pressure, but decision was made by team coaches
© Sirotti Stefano
Remco Evenepoel left last year's Giro d'Italia whilst in the lead of the race
This year was always earmarked by Remco Evenepoel and Soudal Quick-Step as the season in which the Belgian prodigy would target the Tour de France. Whilst Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) notched up Tour titles, Evenepoel has taken a measured approach to his development and first tested himself elsewhere.
A Grand Tour debut was made at the 2021 Giro d’Italia, Evenepoel then won the Vuelta a España in 2022 and last year, the Belgian rode both in the same season. Now, the 24-year-old has revealed a racing programme that is tilted directly at a Tour de France podium bid on debut this summer.
But were it up to team boss Patrick Lefevere, his star man would ride both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France this season, much like Pogačar. Appearing on the Rode Lantaarn podcast of former Quick-Step rider Bram Tankink, the 69-year-old was in usual good spirits, jesting that a Giro appearance for Evenepoel would have been financially lucrative for the team.
“His first idea was to do Giro and Tour, like Tadej Pogačar. Our coach talked him out of that, I kept silent wisely. But if he had done the Giro I could have made a lot of money,” he laughed, before explaining why it might have been wise for Evenepoel to ride the Giro-Tour double.
“In a Grand Tour, riders are well taken care of, everyone knows that. It’s also hectic, but going for a podium finish in the Giro would have taken away a lot of pressure. Now there will be more pressure. But the coaches decided it, and I didn’t resist.”
Lefevere keen to shield team from criticism
It is no secret that Evenepoel had hoped to add a second Grand Tour title to his palmarès last season, which would have given him and his team the confidence to target solely the Tour de France this summer. But Covid took him out of the Giro last May after a flying start, and the Belgian suffered a momentary blip on stage 13 of the Vuelta, which ended his title bid in Spain.
Never a rider to keep his feelings to himself, Evenepoel is admirably honest in his interviews and sometimes this opens up the Belgian to criticism. Earlier in the Vuelta, Evenepoel had made a passing comment that a stage-winning sprint by rival Primož Roglič “was not really fast.” So when Evenepoel was surprisingly dropped in dramatic fashion on stage 13, the reigning champion came under some tough scrutiny on social media.
It is no surprise then, that Lefevere is keen to alleviate pressure from his riders’ shoulders, in particular, from Evenepoel.
“In the past, our general classification riders were always left on their own. Now, we have a phenomenon that everyone expects to win the Tour,” he told Tankink.
“You have to guide them because I hate it when they criticise my team. Most people have a bad memory. They barely remember 48 hours, which is why a crisis always only lasts that long. So you have to wait 48 hours to respond.
“But Remco, he’s a bit wary of putting on a big mouth and then not doing it.”
Aware that his performances are under the spotlight more than most, Evenepoel and his team may well have decided to skip the Giro d’Italia in May, but the Belgian has been keen to downplay his own expectations for the Tour.
A top-five finish and a stage win is the ambition, as he told Het Nieuwsblad back in December. But might the 24-year-old come to regret not riding the Giro in May? That answer may only come to light in July.