Others have speculated that the 70km of time trials in the Giro suit him better than the mountain-heavy Tour, which offers only one climbing time trial in 2023. And the soon-to-be (on January 25) 23-year-old Soudal-QuickStep rider from Aalst, Belgium, confirmed this in late December, telling Eurosport, “I am really looking forward to the opening time trial and then to Stage 9 [another time trial]. We scouted the latter last week. There are beautiful time trials in this Giro that suit me well.”
If he thinks so, why has he now publicly declared that he is not a guaranteed winner in the Giro? “Personally, I always find it difficult to predict a classification [win],” Evenepoel said. “Uphill at the wrong time, a crash, getting sick. Anything can happen.” He went on to say, “It’s a bit safer to aim for a stage victory. For a classification [win] you have to go with the flow a bit. That’s how I did it last year in the Vuelta.”
That’s quite modest for a rider who won both the Vuelta a España and the World Road Race Championship in dominating style near the end of last year’s road race season. And Geraint Thomas and Primož Roglič notwithstanding, Evenepoel is definitely the favorite to win the Giro’s pink jersey, if he stays healthy and on his bike.
But this statement and his reluctance to ride the Tour this year suggest that, while he is super-confident about his time-trialing, he may still lack confidence in his climbing ability. Perhaps that is why he will be spending much of his time before the Giro training at altitude, with four high-altitude training camps and four races scheduled before he tackles the first Grand Tour of the season.
He begins his road racing year Down Under – in Argentina, competing in the Vuelta a San Juan on January 22 to 29. That will be followed by the UAE Tour in late February, the Volta a Catalunya in late March and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April, making for only 22 days of racing before May 6, when the Giro starts.
“It’s a lot of training, a lot of altitude camps, but we saw last year that it works for me, so there’s no need to change anything or try any different approaches,” Evenepoel told reporters at the Soudal-QuickStep presentation earlier this month.
The Belgian emphasized that he would be racing to win these early races. “Every race I’m doing is with the idea of being on the podium or at least winning a stage,” he said. “I’m not doing a lot of races, but they are all, apart from Argentina, at the highest level.”
He has said that what he wants most in racing is to win all three Grand Tours: “To win all three Grand Tours, that’s my biggest dream,” Evenepoel told Alberto Contador on Eurosport after his Vuelta victory.
So is there a chance that he will decide to race in the Tour de France this year after all? Everything is possible, but the Giro-Tour de France double is a tall order. Only seven riders have won that double, for a total of 12 times. Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain all did it twice and Eddy Merckx won the double three times, in 1970, 1972 and 1974. I don’t think Evenepoel is racing at that level yet.
So, probably not the Giro and the Tour. But he may be tempted to try for the Giro-Vuelta double, which is far more manageable, especially as he’s already shown he can win the Spanish Grand Tour. And then perhaps he will go for the World Championship again. Winning those three races in a single year would make a very impressive trifecta.
But first he has to beat Roglič in the Giro.