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Will Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl see more success in the steep hills and smooth roads of the Basque Country and Flemish Ardennes than it did in the cobbles and crosswinds of Flanders?
Remco Evenepoel — and the rest of the “Wolfpack’ — will be hoping so.
Evenepoel lines up as one of the favorites for this week’s Itzulia Basque Country and is on a mission to put a wag back into the team’s tail after its off-par run through the northern classics.
“For a team like ours, going to classics as an underdog is never fun. If you dominate every year and this season you are struggling in those same races to get results, that’s a new situation,” Evenepoel told Het Laatste Nieuws this weekend. “We have to deal with that.”
“Now my big appointments are coming up. I am very focused on the Ardennes classics. We have a strong team and Julian Alaphilippe is getting into great shape. Together we hope to give something back.”
Evenepoel has been far removed from Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s crumbling on the cobblestones this spring.
While Fabio Jakobsen and Kasper Asgreen were salvaging some solace for the “kings of the northern classics,” Evenepoel and his climbing collective gave Patrick Lefevere something to truly smile about with second at Comunitat a la Valenciana and GC honors in the Algarve.
Evenepoel’s Tirreno-Adriatico all went wrong in the space of two climbs of the Carpegna. But after a trip to Tenerife’s Teide volcano and a KoM-winning ride on the Masca climb, he’s gotten his bite back.
“On Tenerife, I climbed much better and I achieved higher wattages, also on the steep sections,” Evenepoel said. “My final day test at the Masca was representative. I am convinced that in Tirreno-Adriatico it was a snapshot. A bad day can happen.”
Six days in the leg-sapping slopes of the Basque Country will show if the training can convert into Ardennes-winning form ahead of Evenepoel’s top targets in Brabantse Pijl and Liège-Bastogne-Liège later this month.
Also read: Is 2022 the year Evenepoel truly takes off?
The 22-year-old lines up as Quick-Step co-captain with Julian Alaphilippe for Monday’s opening TT in Hondarribia. A field studded with grand tour and Ardennes stars including Primož Roglič, Jonas Vingegaard, Adam Yates, Daniel Martínez, and Sergio Higuita will be their rivals for the race’s iconic Basque-hat trophy.
“I’m here to do the best I can, but I don’t set myself too high of goals or expectations,” Evenepoel said. “The final phase of my training camp was very tough, with specific work towards Ardennes classics. I see this a bit like a third altitude camp week. It can also be very intensive here. Of course, it would be fantastic to be able to finish among the very best.”
Quick-Step’s cobbled classics core will be watching and waiting for something to cheer for.