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POCITO, Argentina (VN) — Remco Evenepoel, who just turned 19 and jumped from the junior to professional ranks, wants to win as early as possible in his career. That win almost came in Pocito, a small village in western Argentina.
The Belgian is making his debut with WorldTour team Deceuninck-Quick-Step in the Vuelta a San Juan. In stage 2, he helped Julian Alaphilippe to the win and took the young rider’s jersey. In stage 3, a 12km time trial, he contended for his first professional win. He briefly held onto the lead before Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) edged past, and then Alaphilippe flew by for his second win in two days. Evenepoel held on for third.
Asked if it was too early to win given that he still needs to gain experience, Evenepoel shrugged and said, “It’s never too early, it can only be too late.”
That cool character and some lethal legs helped Evenepoel make the jump so soon to the top level when others usually spend a year or two in the under-23 ranks.
Evenepoel won all four stage races he entered in 2018. At the world championships, he won the time trial by over a minute and soloed from 20 kilometers out for the road title. He collected 23 wins in total.
WorldTour teams scrambled to sign the rider from Brussels’s outskirts, the same lands that produced the great Eddy Merckx. Home team Deceuninck-Quick-Step succeeded over others like Team Sky.
Alaphilippe’s second stage win gave him the sky blue leader’s top ahead of stage 4. The team says it will now give all of its attention for his chance at an overall win.
“Yes, sure, I didn’t expect to be third already, I was hoping for a top 10, but third is amazing,” Evenepoel said of his dream professional debut.
“I’m happy a teammate won the TT because if the other guy would have won by seven hundredths of a second, then I’d be really angry with myself. It’s OK, we won with Julian and he’s the leader, that’s the main thing, to keep the leader’s jersey this week and we’ll do everything for it.
“In the summit finish to Alto Colorado? I’ll help Julian for the leader’s jersey. It’s simple. The leader is the most important, so we’ll do everything to keep the jersey.”
General manager Patrick Lefevere said earlier this month that the team wants to keep Evenepoel from going too deep, too early into his career.
“Especially do not blow him up,” Lefevere explained.
“It is good that he sets clear goals. He also says to me: Argentina will come too early, but in the UAE Tour, I want to be there. Knowing what you want is of course something different than doing what you want.”
Evenepoel has Portugal’s Volta ao Algarve next and the UAE Tour in his young career.
“I’m not going to talk about winning but just doing everything I can,” Evenepoel said.
“Also in UAE, I’ll do everything that’s in me, and that’s following on the climbs and then we’ll see what happens.”