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This May, the rainbow jersey will line out in the Abruzzo “big start” off the back of a carefully curated racing and training schedule colored in pink.
The UAE Tour this week marks the start of Soudal Quick-Step’s no-stone-unturned program of training, racing, analyzing, altitude, and repeat for its young star.
“Here is the proper start of Remco’s Giro preparation. We wanted him to start without stress in Argentina, but now we start. We want to use the information we find here to see what he still has to work on,” Quick-Step director Klaas Lodewyck told VeloNews.
“The TT this week was good, Jebel Jais was good. So now I think we just have to see how it goes on Jebel Hafeet. Remco still has a lot of work to do, that’s clear, but we just want to see for the moment where he will be with the others on Sunday.”
If the UAE Tour is the start of Remco’s roadmap to the maglia rosa, it started bright.
Evenepoel carries a handful of seconds advantage on GC and the wind at his back after helping drag his team to two stage wins already.
“You could see already he made a big step after Argentina,” Lodewyck said ahead of stage 5 on Friday. “The week training in Spain after San Juan went really well, the intensity he did there was very good. He responded really well. We expect more progress every month.”
Evenepoel vs the veterans: ‘It will be about doing our race’
After Sunday’s potentially decisive climb to Jebel Hafeet, Evenepoel is set to hunker down at altitude in advance of a preview face-off with Giro d’Italia rival Primož Roglič at the Volta a Catalunya in March.
More time in thin air follows the Catalan race before Evenepoel revs his race legs in his Liège-Bastogne-Liège defense.
“Catalunya will be a test,” Lodewyck said. “There will be a strong start list there, and especially Roglič. We want to use that to see where Remco is, and see what we need to do in training for him.”
Roglič returns to the Giro this spring for the first time since he hit the podium in 2019.
Evenepoel and Lodewyck have recent memory of the Slovenian. They butted up against him in last year’s Vuelta before Roglič’s crash and abandon turned things into a one-horse race.
“It will be interesting to see where Roglič is at Catalunya. We see he’s only racing there before the Giro,” Lodewyck said. “We’re going to see immediately there how he will be and if we’re able to compete with him, yes or no.”
Roglič carries a decade of experience on Evenepoel. Co-contender for pink Geraint Thomas has more.
Quick-Step isn’t getting in a sweat about its veteran rivals and the grand tour powerhouse teams behind them after Evenepoel took winning the Vuelta’s red jersey in his stride.
Soudal Quick-Step already carried out a batch of recons of the tricky first week and is braced for battles to come.
“We don’t have to look at Roglič or Thomas, it will be about doing our race, like what we did at the Vuelta,” Lodewyck said.
“It’s definitely going to be a very tough race, and those guys [Thomas and Roglič], they’re older, more experienced. So these are always the guys to think about. But look at the Vuelta – we have lots of learnings from there.”