Deceuninck-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has moved quickly to tie Remco Evenepoel to his team for the long-term future, claiming the prodigious young Belgian will likely stay with Lefevere’s team until 2023. The 19-year-old won the Clasica San Sebastian last Saturday and then the European time trial title on Thursday, surprising even his biggest admirers, who have compared him to Eddy Merckx.
Lefevere has built the future of Deceuninck-QuickStep around Julian Alaphilippe, letting Elia Viviani and Philippe Gilbert go. He signed Evenepoel directly from the junior ranks, securing his signature last summer before Evenepoel won the junior time trial and road race titles. Now he is confident about securing Evenepoel for the long-term future.
"He will stay with us until 2021 with an option until 2023," Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad and Het Laatste Nieuws. "His father and I arranged that with a handshake.
"To be clear: Remco had a contract until 2020. I went to Monaco with his parents on Monday to explore the possibilities [of Evenepoel living there]. His father and I shook hands with the approval of Remco. As far as I am concerned, his contract has now been extended, certainly until 2021 with the option for 2022 and 2023. A handshake is binding for me and I believe for the Evenepoel family too."
Evenepoel does not have an agent, and Lefevere knew he had to move quickly to avoid other teams tempting the young Belgian away.
"It's obvious that if you win San Sebastian and then become European time trial champion at the age of 19, then vultures are flying everywhere. They want a piece of cake, but I hope they’re late," he said.
Lefevere knows Evenepoel well, but the young rider's recent success has surprised the wily Belgian manager.
"He surprised me the most in San Sebastian. That is a very hard race, and the riders from the Tour normally have the better legs there,” he said. "But he still rode away from Valverde and the others on the flat. Everyone thought he would crack on the last hill, but that he dropped his breakaway companion [Toms Skujiņš of Trek-Segafredo] and won. Even at my age I was surprised.
"Alkmaar was different. I thought that if he had recovered well, he'd finish in the top five or top three, but winning is something else. It wasn't a perfect course for him; it was flat and fairly short at 22km, but if you are in top form, you can do everything."
Evenepoel is likely to move from his family home in Belgium, with Andorra another possible location.
"Andorra isn’t as sexy as Monaco but you sleep at an altitude of 1,800 or 1,900 meters, which means that you have to do less altitude training," Lefereve said, seemingly keen to keep his new star away from the glitz of Monaco on the Mediterranean coast.