Every aspect of Remco Evenepoel's career appears to be on a fast track to success. He turned professional at WorldTour level with Deceuninck-QuickStep at just 19, and on his race debut at the Vuelta a San Juan he finished ninth overall and took home the under-23 green jersey.
Throughout the seven days of racing, and even during the Iljo Keisse controversy, Evenepoel seemed wiser beyond his years. He made a mistake on the mountain stage by not being on Winner Anacona's wheel when he made what turned out to be the decisive attack but he more than made up for it by finishing a close second in the time trial. He stayed cool and composed during the final stages as the whole Deceuninck-QuickStep team focused on defending his green jersey.
He was understandably proud to climb onto the final podium and keep Gino Mader (Dimension Data) two seconds behind in the under-23 classification.
"When you start your first week of racing without expectations and then you get a jersey and ninth in GC, I think I can be very proud," he said.
"It feels amazing to win a jersey in my first pro race. Today there was only one thing to do and that was to watch out that Gino didn't get any bonus second in the intermediate sprints. That's why I went on the attack from the start of the stage, to go in the break. Unfortunately, they closed us down. But I talked to Gino and he told me they were not going to sprint for the time bonuses because they were focused on the finish sprint."
"In the finale, we went all in for Alvaro Hodeg in the sprint. He was unlucky to get second but I think we did a great job as a team this week. We won two stages and had a lot of podiums, second in the GC and this jersey."
Evenepoel had the self-confidence to say he expects to do even better as his debut season continues. He will next race at the UAE Tour, which is WorldTour level and where Deceuninck-QuickStep will probably target the sprints with Elia Viviani and the opening team time trial. Evenepoel is already eyeing the mountain finishes as Deceuninck-QuickStep's best hope for the overall classification.
He is not afraid to say he can improve on his result at the Vuelta a San Juan.
"For sure," he said without a second's thought.
"The pressure and expectation are not a problem for me because I really don't care about it. I've just started racing and I'm not in very good shape yet, this was just a preparation race. I think my shape is good but hopefully, I can only get better and better."
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