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SportsCycling: with Evenepoel, Belgium dreams of a new Merckx

Cycling: with Evenepoel, Belgium dreams of a new Merckx

“Remcomania” has reached Belgium. The young Belgian cycling phenomenon Remco Evenepoel, 20, has won streaks since his debut with the pros last year, to the point of already being qualified as the new Merckx.

Nothing seems to resist him: two-stage races in 2020, two victories. The Tour of San Juan in January in Argentina, the Tour of Algarve, last week in Portugal.

After flying over the junior category, the Brabancon (Flemish) from Schepdael, born in Aalst, makes the country of cycling dream. Monday, the daily newspaper La Derniere Heure / Les Sports headlined “Yellow suits it so well!”

Through its symbolic color, the Tour de France, which the Belgians have not won since 1976 (Lucien Van Impe), is implicitly reflected. Is the new Merckx born? A whole country hopes so. A whole country believes in it.

And his opponents too. Like Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour de France in 2018.

“I drove alongside him in the Algarve. Impressive! Why couldn’t he succeed what my teammate Egan Bernal succeeded at 22 years old on the last Tour de France?” Wonders Thomas.

Except that Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck) will not compete in the next Big Loop. His first big Tour will be the Giro. With the possibility of taking the pink jersey of the Tour of Italy from the first stage, a time trial scheduled for May 9 in Budapest, Hungary.

Specialist of the exercise against the clock, he can believe it. His main opponent will be Australian time trial champion Rohan Dennis, who he has just dominated in the Algarve – revenge after his 2nd place behind Dennis at the 2019 world championships.

“It will be quite a duel. I expect him to be my main opponent in this exercise for the next few years,” said the Ineos runner.

– “The ideal weight” –

But the Belgian has other qualities. He admits that he is not a pure climber, calling himself a “roller-puncher”. Without however knowing its “limits”.

How far can he go next May? The Italian Vincenzo Nibali, the double winner of the Giro who observed him closely in the Algarve, warned: “I would not be surprised if Remco was already a formidable opponent on this Tour of Italy.”

Patrick Lefevere, the manager of the powerful Deceuninck team who hastened to make him sign his first professional contract, announces: “The next Giro will serve as a barometer”.

The fact remains that in a year with the “pros”, Remco, the solo winner last summer of his first classic (Clasica San Sebastian), begins to scare the whole peloton. “I have never encountered such a talent,” confirmed his teammate Julian Alaphilippe in the newspaper Le Soir.

“When he resumed training in Calpe (Spain), he was already clearly above the others,” notes his sporting director Tom Steels.

“The winter tests also showed a significant gain in power,” he continues.

Evenepoel now weighs 60 kg on the scale. “The ideal weight given its size”, risks Patrick Lefevere.

Another positive point according to The Last Hour: Evenepoel has clearly improved in terms of explosiveness. It is now able to reach 1,100 watts (300 more than last year), enough to compete with his teammate Julian Alaphilippe.

In short, Remco amazes. At the tactical level too. He who has only been cycling for three years, after a period of soccer training in Anderlecht.

“He had too big a motor to limit himself to football,” said Tom Steels. “And in three years, he learned the tactical sense of racing. It’s exceptional!”

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Qamar Munawer
Qamar Munawer
Associate Editor at The Eastern Herald.

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