Remco Evenepoel versus Jonas Vingegaard (and so many others) in the Tour of the Basque Country: “It will be a spectacle every day” | Cycling

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LOOK. Evenepoel about duel with Vingegaard: “He is a favorite”

“There will be much less tactical jousting than at times in Paris-Nice. Here it will be much more racing with your mind at zero.”

Signed: Remco Evenepoel, Saturday afternoon in San Sebastian. It’s raining old women outside, but he himself shines like a young choirboy in the lobby of Hotel Leonardo. The local scribe of El Diario Vasco takes the piss out of him. Whereupon his accompanying photographer immortalizes the world time trial champion in his strict essence: sitting on a small stool, against a plain background, broad smile, thumbs up – how simple could an editorial guideline have been? Suddenly a ray of sunshine peeks through the gray mass of clouds. “Hey, the weather is getting better, Zenne. Even up to 25 degrees at the end of the week!”

Evenepoel likes to drive him, that ‘Itzulia’. For the first time two years ago. Then came fourth, after Daniel Felipe Martinez, Ion Izagirre and Vlasov, five seconds off the podium. But before Vingegaard and Roglic. After having a blast and having a great time on the steep climbs and rollercoasters of Alava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. “The ideal preparation for the Ardennes classics,” he still thinks in 2024. “I won’t say that it is a ‘passage obligatoire’, but personally this stage race is very useful for me to gain some extra racing rhythm and explosiveness. I know them well and I like them too.”

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The big difference with 2022: no uphill finish this time. Not even in Eibar, finish of the queen stage on Saturday. All tough stages, not a single meter flat, with some nice finals. Inviting to offensive, aggressive racing. Vintage Evenepoel. However? “Some days the finish line will be, so to speak, ten kilometers from the end (at the top of the last obstacle, he means, ed.). Boys who do not benefit from a sprint will also want to make it an elongated, atypical final of 40 or 50 kilometers. Please, as far as I’m concerned. Although it is not necessary. Just like Roglic, I dare to go to the final straight line with most competitors. In any case, it will be a spectacle every day. I’ll have to read the course carefully. And maybe dare to take a risk every now and then.”

The risk that was perhaps avoided a little too much in Paris-Nice. Evenepoel finished second, after Matteo Jorgenson, but certainly could – actually should – have won his first professional race on French soil. He was not immune to the criticism and comments afterwards. “It was sometimes disappointing to read and hear,” he sighs. “Because I always give the best of myself, just like my teammates. We did everything we could to win Paris-Nice, but certain race situations decided otherwise. It now appears that Jorgenson is really doing well.” However, he did not let it linger for long. “It bothered me for a few days. (laughs) Then I used it to add an extra percentage during training.”

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Evenepoel focused on training in and around his Spanish home base of Calpe on somewhat shorter but higher intensity blocks of five to fifteen minutes. The kind of efforts he will make in the coming days on the angry, explosive Basque slopes. Against names that sound like bells. Renowned opponents such as two-time Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard and the Spanish comet Juan Ayuso – “the top two of Tirreno-Adriatico”. And also Vuelta winner Sepp Kuss, Jai Hindley, Mattias Skjelmose Jensen, Tao Geoghegan Hart, David Gaudu, Brandon McNulty, Pello Bilbao, Santiago Buitrago, Thomas Pidcock and Carlos Rodriguez. Evenepoel: “Vingegaard is the top favorite. He was impressive in O Gran Camiño and the Tirreno (7 wins in 11 competition days, ed.). But he also remains susceptible to a bad day. Often it has not happened yet, but it is possible. I will therefore not adjust my course to him. I fight with an open mind.”

32-31. Narrow advantage for Evenepoel in the 63 ‘head-to-heads’ with the four-year-older Dane after each of six professional seasons so far. 6-2 in head-to-head wins. But don’t be blinded by that. Because the times Vingegaard pushed back during confrontations in the (Grand) Tour, it always hurt. When it comes to final victories, he has the advantage: 2-4. An interesting pro-Evenepoel stat: never before did Vingegaard finish ahead of him in an individual time trial (5-0). In ’22 he conceded 0.42 at 13.5 kilometers in Tirreno-Adriatico (Lido di Camaiore) and 0.15 at 7.5 kilometers in the Basque Country (Hondarribia).

Jonas Vingegaard.
Jonas Vingegaard. © AP

Let the route of the introductory time trial in this edition park nicely in between (10 kilometers). And therefore immediately offer perspectives for the very best in the world in the discipline. “She is already becoming somewhat decisive,” Evenepoel nods. “Some time difference can already be created between the favorites, although this will not be significant given the limited distance. But still, every second counts in a difficult to manage, not so terribly difficult Tour of the Basque Country – tougher ones have ever been ridden. That we may immediately have to carry the weight of the leader’s jersey? Okay, so be it. It doesn’t scare us. Then it will be up to other teams and riders to make plans and attack. I feel strongly surrounded. Not least because of Mikel, ‘local hero’ with tons of experience, who knows the region like the back of his hand.”

Mikel is of course Mikel Landa. The perfect guide for Evenepoel. Recently second after the unapproachable Tadej Pogacar in the Tour of Catalonia. ‘The best of the rest’. And therefore ready for a leading role. As a master servant or… change leader. Evenepoel: “I think he thoroughly explored every stage. He will certainly help me, I am convinced of that. Which doesn’t mean that, if he has the legs and turns out to be better than me, he can’t do his own thing. Because he also has a chance of winning overall given his current level of form. If he doesn’t clock too far behind me in the time trial, we can easily play the game just the two of us in the coming days. As long as we agree and don’t make mistakes.”

Follow the Tour of the Basque Country LIVE HERE!

Remco Evenepoel in the Tour of Algarve, then already in the wheel of Mikel Landa.
Remco Evenepoel in the Tour of Algarve, then already in the wheel of Mikel Landa. © Photo News

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Tags: Remco Evenepoel Jonas Vingegaard Tour Basque Country spectacle day Cycling

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