A prodigy. Hardly any other word can be found to describe Remco Evenepoel. He is only 23 years old but, in the pro peloton, he has already won 41 times, and not just any races, but landmark competitions such as the World Championship in Wollongong last year, two Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a Vuelta a España and two Clasica de San Sebastián.
And to think that, until 2017, he had pretty much never even stepped on a bicycle, despite the fact that his father Patrick had been a professional for three years. Remco was a footballing talent, first at PSV Eindhoven and then at Anderlecht, as well as in the Belgian youth national team. Then an injury forced him to take up cycling for rehabilitation, and there he discovered even greater skills, one of those God-given talents we only come across once every few decades.
In 2018, a year after discovering the bike, he annihilated the entire junior category, winning the European and World Championships in both road and time trials, and beating his rivals by abysmal margins. That was enough for Quick-Step and Patrick Lefevere to have him join the pros directly from the juniors. His debut among the big boys came at the age of 19, and from the very first year he began to fill his trophy cabinet with prestigious successes which, one after the other, turned him into the undisputed champion he is today.
In between, however, there was no shortage of difficulties, such as the brutal crash at Il Lombardia and the resulting fractured pelvis, or that first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia 2021, which began with great expectations and instead ended with a sad withdrawal. There was a lot of chatter and rumours about him at that edition of the Corsa Rosa, as many felt it was too early for him to make his debut in a three-week race, all the more so because that would have been the very start of his season after recovering from a career-threatening injury. Yet, others claimed that a talent like that could not be held back and had to go for it.
The former were proved right: the Belgian jewel had a decent start and for the first part of the Giro he established himself as the most credible rival for the unstoppable Egan Bernal. Then the decline, he struggled on the “white roads” stage of Montalcino and then on the Zoncolan, before finally collapsing on the rainy stage of Cortina d’Ampezzo and dropping out before stage 18. Just a bump in the road to legend.
Since that Giro he has only raced one other Grand Tour, last year’s Vuelta a España, and won it. Needless to say, he will start from the Costa dei Trabocchi with the aim of going for the Maglia Rosa, which would raise his status even higher, considering most of his career is still ahead of him. This year he has already won the UAE Tour, finished 2nd in the Volta a Catalunya (won by Primož Roglič, perhaps his most dangerous rival at the Giro) with two stage victories, and put on another show at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Stopping him will be very difficult.