The UCI Hour Record holder cramped dramatically inside the final 10km of Wednesday's stage and, as a result, has decided not to start stage 2.
Campenaerts went along with Evenepoel when the 21-year-old attacked on the undulating finishing circuit some 30km from the finish, and the pair bridged across to the breakaway.
Evenepoel did the lion's share of the pacemaking, at one point venting his frustration at the lack of contribution from the others. While the breakaway riders had been out front all day, it soon became clear that Campenaerts wasn't bluffing but also simply hanging on.
With around 8km to go, on the final ascent of the Ellestraat climb, the Belgian was dropped, slowing dramatically as his legs cramped from the effort. He even had to climb off his bike to recover.
Despite finishing the stage, a medical check suggested that the cramps had aggravated the knee tendon injury that forced him to exit the recent Giro d'Italia, and he pulled out of the race.
"Yesterday the opening stage of the Tour of Belgium was epic. I was really super focused and the team was really motivated," Campenaerts said.
"I tried everything I could, I went totally over the limit and totally cramped at the end, as you could clearly see.
"Unfortunately, the cramps hurt again the tendon that was inflamed in the Giro so we choose, with an eye on further objectives this season, not to take any risks. Tour of Belgium, I love you."
The decision means Campenaerts misses out on an opportunity in his specialist discipline, with Thursday's stage 2 being an 11.2km time trial at Knokke-Heist. Despite not winning the opening stage, Evenepoel claimed the leader's jersey thanks to bonus seconds and is expected to extend his overall lead in the time trial.
🎥 Also 'parcheggio' for Victor Campenaerts 😲#BaloiseBelgiumTour pic.twitter.com/ckjDfSFUxsJune 9, 2021
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