Remco Evenepoel on Clásica San Sebastián return: ‘I am the lightest I’ve ever been’

Belgian superstar is coming off three-week altitude camp with the Clásica, Vuelta a España and world championships in his sights.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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Remco Evenepoel is back in the saddle this weekend at the Clásica San Sebastián, and he’s raring to go.

What else to expect from one of cycling’s most dynamic racers?

The Belgian superstar will race in Saturday’s Clásica San Sebastián (also called Donostokia Klasikoa in Basque) in his first action since the Belgian national championships in late June. He will lead Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl in the Spanish one-day race he won in spectacular fashion in 2019 to mark his arrival to the elite of the peloton.

“I only have good memories of the race,” Evenepoel said Friday. “To win as a first year as a pro was a dream because it’s one of my favorite races. I only remember in a proud and happy way. I feel good and will try to fight for the victory.”

The 22-year-old is using the Clásica as a springboard into the Vuelta, where he said he’s hoping to win at least a stage, with the GC not a main priority at the start of the race.

“It’s difficult to say I have a specific GC goal at the start of the race,” he said. “If I can go out of the Vuelta with a stage win or two, then you speak about it being a good Vuelta. The main thing is to win a stage. The GC will be extra.”

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Evenepoel said the opening team time trial in the Netherlands and the stage 10 individual time trial will be top Vuelta goals, and he said he’s currently two kilos lighter than when he won the Clásica in 2019.

“I am at the lightest I’ve been. I was even lighter at Liège but I am 2kg lighter than I was when I turned pro,” he said Friday. “Now I am more specific on diet and training to lose muscle mass, to lose weight ahead of the Vuelta. I am still very young, and in the beginning, I was not really knowing how to adapt myself to diet going into some races. That’s not any issue anymore and now I can deal with the body weight.”

Evenepoel three years gone: ‘I am a more complete rider’

Remco Evenepoel, shown here attacking to his solo win in 2019, is the only winner during the past decade not to have raced the Tour de France. (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Evenepoel barnstormed to the Clásica victory in 2019 to herald his arrival to the WorldTour. Now three years later, Evenepoel says he’s smarter and wiser.

“I am a more complete athlete,” he said. ” When I won, I was 19, and my body was fully developing, and not completely developed. Now I am also smarter in the race, I can read the race bette. I am more explosive  more experienced and kind of a more complete human if I can say it like that. All of this I hope can help can me to have a nice result tomorrow.

“I am here to do a good result and to try to get a second win here at San Sebastián,” Evenepoel said. “I’ve always performed well in the Basque Country. I am here with confidence, with good preparation, and I just feel really motivated to race again here in Spain.”

Next month, Evenepoel will make his Vuelta debut with trademark panache. The promise is to attack, race aggressively, and let the chips fall where they may.

After more than a month away from the action, he’s excited for the second half of 2022 that also includes what he hopes will be a trip to the world championships.

“It’s been quite a while since I raced,” he said. “After the Belgian nationals I had a few days off the bike, and I traveled to Livigno for three weeks, with long quiet climbing trainings, not much intensity. I’ve been building up a really big base, but  nothing specific for this race.

“I had two weeks with 30 hours of training. This week I have only 10 hours of training, and that makes me fresh for tomorrow’s race,” he said. “I will keep it like this going into the Vuelta. I have a long fall season, with the Vuelta and then the worlds, so that’s a long, five-week period where I need to perform. The final week of the Vuelta will decide everything, so I want to be as fresh as possible at the start of the race.”

Evenepoel isn’t talking GC right now, but it’s always on the back of his mind. After all, the Belgian media won’t let him forget it.

Last month, Evenepoel said he watched the Tour from a distance during a three-week altitude camp in Livigno, Italy, where he climbed the Gavia, Mortirolo, and Stelvio to prepare for the Vuelta.

To work towards my big dream, to stand on a Grand Tour podium, you need to push your limits and that’s why we’re going to the Vuelta with this preparation, this approach and the team we’ll have.

“It is my big dream to stand on a podium at a grand tour,” Evenepoel said. “It’s an adventure, let’s say it’s like a highway which you don’t know will end. I’m really curious to see where it leads and really looking forward to starting the Vuelta. Let’s see and hope for the best.”

Next year, a start at the Tour is all but assured. Let the hype machine begin in 3, 2, 1 …

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