Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere, says that Remco Evenepoel's race programme in the build-up to a likely 2021 Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia will look very different, with the 20-year-old Belgian likely to have more of a leadership role and be expected to win bigger races.
Evenepoel's stated 2020 goal of winning the individual time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games will, however, move across to next year to become his principal goal once more, Lefevere told Belgian media – even if that might not be entirely to the long-time team manager's liking.
"The Olympics are for national teams – not for a WorldTour team like ours, which doesn't get any commercial advantage from the Games," Lefevere told HLN.be. "But they are a priority for Remco, and that won't change."
What will change, however, is Evenepoel's programme in the lead-up to next summer's rescheduled Games, taking advantage of what Lefevere implies will be a stronger – and definitely older and wiser – Remco Evenepoel.
The rider many are calling 'the new Eddy Merckx', won both the junior road race and individual time trial at the 2018 World Championships, and then skipped the under-23 ranks to join WorldTour team Deceuninck-QuickStep for 2019. He won the Clásica San Sebastián, the Baloise Belgium Tour overall and became the elite men's European time trial champion in his debut year at elite level.
This season, Evenepoel has raced just two races before being halted by the coronavirus crisis – the Tour of San Juan and the Tour of the Algarve – and won stages and the overall titles at both. He was then due to ride Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya, Brabantse Pijl, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and then make his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia in May.
While all those races have been postponed, Evenepoel recently didn't entirely rule out riding the Vuelta a España later this season, but said that this year’s World Championships would now be his next goal, and categorically stated that he wouldn't ride the Tour de France, whenever, and if, it takes place.
'We still haven't seen him take on a European climb of over 2,000 metres'
The most likely scenario is that he will ride his first three-week race at next season's Giro, but Lefevere is very keen for Evenepoel's build-up towards the Corsa Rosa to take a different track.
"It will look different," he said. "At the beginning of this season, we were racing with the brakes on. We didn't think that Remco would win the Tour of San Juan and the Tour of the Algarve this year. It's all going very fast for him, and we'll take that into account next year.
"I don't know how we're going to do that next year," admitted Lefevere, "but we'll certainly change his programme. He could do what he wanted [so far] in 2020. We never told Remco to win at San Juan or the Algarve.
"We did ask him to show something in the Tirreno. The Giro? He was going to be allowed to ride his own race there, and if he started to get tired, he was going to be able to go home.
"If he does the Giro next year, it should be possible for him to finish it," Lefevere said, suggesting that more will be expected of Evenepoel next year.
"Whether he'll ride for the general classification remains to be seen. We still haven't seen him take on a European climb of over 2,000 metres," he said.