Remco Evenepoel’s victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège has secured him co-leadership in the Belgian team alongside Wout van Aert at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia, with the hope the two can overcome their fallout at the 2021 Worlds in Leuven.
Evenepoel is currently enjoying a break from racing after racking up 26 days of competition since early February. His attack over the top of the Côte de La Redoute and solo ride to victory Sunday at Liège confirmed his talents after a roller-coaster 18 months following his crash at Il Lombardia and his hip fracture.
The 22-year-old Belgian is not expected to ride the Tour de France, with QuickStep-AlphaVinyl sticking to their original plan of targeting the Vuelta a España before travelling to Australia.
Van Aert and Evenepoel are expected to finally bury the hatchet and move on from the Belgian debacle of last year’s World Championships in the next few weeks so they can create a strong Belgian squad that can win the world title.
Doubts about whether Evenepoel would work for Van Aert hung over the run-in to their home Worlds after initial tension at the Tokyo Olympic Games road race. The polemics then exploded after nominated leader Van Aert struggled in the final laps of the race and Evenepoel, who committed to an early breakaway, publicly suggested he had “the legs to become world champion.” Evenepoel also failed to show up for the team’s post-race debrief but promised he would eventually talk to Van Aert.
His solo victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège has boosted Evenepoel’s status in Belgium, with national coach Sven Vanthourenhout making clear that Evenepoel has earned his joint-leader status alongside Van Aert in both the time trial and road race in Australia. Dylan Teuns’s victory at La Flèche Wallonne and strong spring campaign could also earn him a protected role for the rolling 270km elite men’s road race in Wollongong.
“We’re no longer going to the World Championships with Wout as the only leader as we did last year. If both reach their current level in September, we can go to Australia with a strong team,” Vanthourenhout told Het Laatste Nieuws.
Vanthourenhout does not seem concerned about their rivalry in the Belgian national team.
“I have not yet spoken to both of them about the World Championships in Australia, but I’ve noticed that Remco and Wout respect each other,” he suggested.
Evenepoel is expected to return to racing at the Tour of Norway at the end of May to prepare for the Belgian national championships and then the Tour de Suisse. During the Tour de France, Evenepoel will spend much of July at altitude in Livigno, preparing for the Vuelta a España, which begins in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, on August 19.
The Vuelta a España ends in Madrid on September 11, with the elite men’s time trial just a week later on Sunday, September 18. The road race is the following Sunday on September 25. Van Aert is likely to travel to Australia via Canada and so ride the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on September 9 and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on September 11.