Remco Evenepoel may be just four months into his pro career, but the 19-year-old sensation is already showing the talent and aggression that saw him jump straight from the juniors to the big show.
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider put in his most impressive performance yet on stage 5 of the Tour of Turkey. Five kilometres from the top of the snow-capped summit finish at Kartepe, he was on the attack, eventually taking fourth at the finish.
“It was a very hard day and and an extremely tough and steep climb with punishing double-digit gradients,” said Evenepoel in a post-race team statement. “Add to this also the cold temperatures, the headwind and the snow, and you get a really, really hard stage.
“Actually, it was the first time in my career that I raced in such terrible conditions, and I’m happy with how I managed to overcome this day of suffering.”
The finishing climb was arguably the toughest of the 2019 calendar so far, measuring in at 12km at an average of 9.1 per cent – and that was after four kilometres were cut off thanks to the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol.
So it was all the more impressive to see Evenepoel battling it out with the likes of Valerio Conti and eventual stage winner Felix Großschartner on the ‘snowy hill’. Conti kicked off the festivities, before Evenepoel countered with 5km to go, later trying a solo attack before he was caught.
“The team did a great job and protected me throughout the whole day and made sure I was in a good position when the road went up,” he said. “The first two kilometres of the ascent were softer and so I moved in the first 10 because it was much easier to start it at the front so I could immediately find a rhythm.
“Then with five kilometres to go, I responded to an attack from Conti and found myself alone in the front, so I rode my own tempo without overdoing it before the others returned.
“I still had some energy in the legs to respond to an attack in the final, but when a second one came, I couldn’t do it again because it was really hard on those 15 per cent gradients.”
It’s not the first time Evenepoel has impressed this season. At his first race, the Vuelta a San Juan, he took third on the stage 3 time trial in Pocito behind teammate Julian Alaphilippe. Later in the race he was up front during the closing stages of the Alto Colorado summit finish working for the Frenchman.
“It’s certainly a boost of morale for me,” he said of Saturday’s result. “Because even though the world’s best climbers weren’t here, there were still many strong guys in the race.
“To get such a nice result on this ascent and be up there in the GC, close to the podium, in just my second WorldTour race of the season, makes me very happy.”