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Evenepoel, the overall winner of the race in 2020, is the number one favorite for the race this time around but he told VeloNews ahead of stage 1 that his time trial training had been disrupted due to a positional issue that has now been resolved.
Ahead of stage 1 in Portugal, the young Belgian told VeloNews that he would train on his time trial bike after the opening stage in order to try and get used to his adapted TT position.
“The time trial will be very decisive but also tomorrow, stage 2, is a very hard stage with the second last climb, which is actually harder than the last one. The time trial will be very long, and then in the two sprint stages we should try and stay out of trouble. Then the long-time trial will make the most damage in the GC,” Evenepoel said.
“I’m obviously training a lot on my time trial bike. Last month I couldn’t because of a new setup, so I didn’t have my bike but then yesterday and today after the stage I will do an easy ride on my TT bike with the rollers, just to get into the position. I’ll try and get used to it for a long effort. Of course, I did some specific work for the time trials, and with longer climbs so I could be ready for these kinds of efforts.”
Evenepoel comes into Algarve as the number one favorite, and with a target on his back. He won the opening stage, in Valenciani, in early February but cracked on the gravel roads of stage 3 to eventually finish second overall. However, his pedigree in week-long stage races is near impeccable, and the parcours in Algarve is ideally suited to his punchy style on short climbs. The long time trial will be a test of attrition and pacing but his director Tom Steels believes that the effort inflicted will demonstrate Evenepoel’s early season form.
“Algarve is a very nice course, with two mountain stages, two sprint stages, and a long and interesting time trial. It’s a goal for everybody,” Steels told VeloNews directly.
“Tomorrow on stage 2, it’s a case of whoever is the strongest will be at the front of the race. Let’s hope that Remco has the legs. With Ineos, you have a really strong team and there are other riders already in really good shape.”
“I think that the race will be won in the time trial. The gaps in the top three on the climbs are usually not that much. So I think that the time trial will be decisive. It’s not an easy course; it’s quite technical, and there are some very fast corners where you have to concentrate but I’m curious. Usually, in this period, not many riders have the resistance to go over that distance. For Remco, it’s a good test.”
Steels also believes that Evenepoel has yet to reach his best form and that looking towards the Giro d’Italia this early in the year would be a mistake. Instead, the former sprinter, thinks that Evenepoel should be allowed to find his feet in the early season races, even if the GC is a realistic goal this week.
“He’s good. He’s not at 100 percent, but no one is. When you have the talent, and you have the class, then you can perform at 90 percent. For the moment it’s going in the right direction. We want him to fight for the GC but for us, getting him on the time trial bike again, against this competition, then we’ll see how good he is.”
“It’s early, too early,” he said when asked about the Giro. First you have this part of the season, and it’s never good to look too far ahead.”