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The reigning world champion parachuted in from an altitude camp at Tenerife to cherry-pick “La Doyenne” in a performance that telegraphed to the WorldTour that he could be even better than last year.
“This is a big boost ahead of the Giro d’Italia,” Evenepoel said. “The recent altitude training camps went really well, and this victory, which shows that my form is there and feeds my confidence.”
Not only did he “save” Soudal Quick-Step’s spring classics campaign yet again, the reigning world champion looks lean, sharp, and confident.
Liège was a mere way-station en route toward the major goal in 2023 of the pink jersey and the Giro victory.
“Now it is just a matter of working on a few details and percentages towards the Giro. The team is very motivated and is in order,” Evenepoel told Sporza. “Three-quarters of the team that was in Liège also rides the Giro. After this preparation we are all ready for sure. That’s for sure.”
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Although Tadej Pogačar crashed out with a broken wrist that’s putting his appearance in the Tour de France in doubt, Evenepoel emerged from Liège ever more confident heading toward the Giro.
No one could stay on his wheel when he attacked on La Redoute. Tom Pidcock tried, but later admitted “Remco was like a motorbike,” and he wisely sat up to fight for leftovers.
Only a few of Evenepoel’s direct Giro rivals raced Sunday, but the others were certainly watching the race on TV.
In what was being hyped as a deep and competitive Giro field just a few months ago is suddenly looking much thinner at the top.
Of the Giro favorites, only Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Joâo Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) have confirmed top form on the road so far this spring.
Evenepoel’s big win Sunday will put a scare into his direct rivals. And the way he dismantled the field and delivered the knock-out blow largely as the team scripted reveals a stronger, even more tactical version of Evenepoel.
“We had a very tough training on camp in Tenerife. The values were better than they have ever been, so I got a lot of confidence from that training,” Evenepoel told Sporza. “I knew that I was starting to get in good shape and that I would be ready for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. We knew we could win this race.”
Remco Evenepoel at 23 years of age:
European ITT Champion
Belgian ITT Champion
Vuelta a Espana
2xClasica San Sebastian
Brussels Cycling Classic
2xTour of Belgium
Tour de Pologne
— CafeRoubaix (@CafeRoubaix) April 23, 2023
After winning the Vuelta a España last year, becoming the first Belgian to win a grand tour in four decades, Evenepoel is carrying even more confidence and ambition into the Giro.
Soudal Quick-Step is also betting big on Evenepoel.
Team boss Patrick Lefevere is allocating much of the team’s resources at Evenepoel’s disposal, even at the cost of his much-beloved spring classics campaign.
“That victory now gives an extra boost for the Tour of Italy. You can train as much as you want, but you are always looking for confirmation,” Lefevere told Sporza. “That group is very well connected. They trained hard together on Mount Teide for three weeks.”
Many of the riders heading to the Giro with Evenepoel also were with him on the Teide volcano. Riders expected to start the Giro include Louis Vervaeke, Ilan Van Wilder, and Pieter Serry, and all three were with Evenepoel on Sunday.
They rode deep into the race Sunday to carry their man to the base of the La Redoute.
Soudal Quick-Step is now Evenepoel’s team
The scale of Evenepoel’s victory cannot be understated.
Evenepoel became the first reigning world champion since Moreno Argentin in 1987 to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the first rider in 25 years to take back-to-back victories, all on home roads in his first race in 2023 in Belgium.
And he did it all in white shorts.
More importantly, the big win “saved” Quick-Step’s spring campaign for the second year in a row.
The once-mighty “Wolfpack” used to rule the northern classics and the cobblestoned roads of Belgium and northern France, but it’s been defanged by the rise of Wout van Aert, Pogačar, and Mathieu van der Poel.
After another relatively flat spring classics, with only one win at Nokere Koerse with Tim Merlier and a top-10 at Tour of Flanders with Kasper Asgreen, Evenepoel’s ride serves as a salve for Lefevere.
“Last year we also had a difficult spring, but we are here again. And Remco has won again,” Lefevere said Sunday. “It was an announced triumph, yet, but there will be critics again who will refer to the fall of Pogačar.”
Lefevere likes to say the spring classics don’t end until “La Doyenne,” and he was playing that tune again in 2023.
Though he’s been critical of riders such as Asgreen and Julian Alaphilippe, Lefevere stands staunchly behind Evenepoel.
“He was only home for four days all spring,” Lefevere said. “It is the result of what the outside world actually does not see. He was at a training camp, altitude training, course reconnaissance, and another altitude training.”
The moment @EvenepoelRemco received his real reward 🍟 for winning “La Doyenne” 😁
— Soudal Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (@soudalquickstep) April 24, 2023
Evenepoel will now put the finishing touches on his Giro preparation that began months ago.
The opening stage of the Giro is little more than a week away. The 18.4km individual time trial from Fossacesia Marina to Ortona could see Evenepoel swapping his rainbow jersey for the “maglia rosa.”
If Liège proved anything, it will be very tough to stop Evenepoel from getting what he wants.