The Belgian was due to make his Grand Tour debut at last year’s Giro, but he missed the race after fracturing his pelvis in a season-ending crash at Il Lombardia. He returned to training in November but was then forced to take a further break between mid-December and mid-February to allow his fracture to heal fully.
Speaking to the Belgian media on Thursday, Evenepoel confirmed his participation in the 2021 Giro, but he outlined that he would not race until the opening time trial in Turin on May 8.
"Why should I rush to catch some races in the Ardennes two weeks earlier? I'd rather take my time, the full three months, and get in shape at my ease. Is that a risk? Yes. Will it work out well or badly? We won't know until later," Evenepoel said, according to Het Nieuwsblad.
Evenepoel’s remarkable sequence of stage race success in 2020 – he won the Vuelta a San Juan, Volta ao Algarve, Vuelta a Burgos and Tour de Pologne – meant that he was numbered among the favourites for last October’s Giro before he was ruled out through injury.
The 21-year-old insisted, however, that he has no particular targets for his belated Giro debut, suggesting that it would help build a foundation towards the Tokyo Olympics, where he will compete in the road race and time trial.
"I have no specific ambitions and expectations. I'm riding the Giro in preparation for the summer. The intention is that I will be on an upward trend in Italy for three weeks," said Evenepoel, who is travelling to a training camp on Mount Teide on Saturday.
"In April we will go on altitude training with the team for a second time. Is that enough? I can only tell that in June, when the Giro is over."
Following the Giro, Evenepoel does not plan to race again until the road race at the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for July 24.
"After the Giro there will be another period without a competition, until the Olympic Games. This worked well in the past: an altitude training period, a few days in between and then races. Maybe that's because I'm still young," said Evenepoel, who added that it was too soon to consider whether he would ride the Vuelta a España following the Olympics.
"The Vuelta is certainly an option. But that decision won’t be made until much later. My biggest concern now is to get 100 per cent fit and to get up those little hills around my house at ease."
Evenepoel revealed last week that he had written to UCI president David Lappartient from his hospital bed last August after the governing body ordered the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation to open an investigation into the aftermath of his Il Lombardia crash.
Television footage showed Deceuninck-QuickStep directeur sportif Davide Bramati removing an item from Evenepoel’s jersey pocket after the crash. In October, the CADF closed the investigation after concluding "that no anti-doping violation was committed".
Lappartient had suggested the item may have been a data device, transmitting performance information from Evenepoel back to the team car, which is against UCI regulations, but Deceuninck-QuickStep insisted the white object was "a small bottle containing nutrition products".
"I didn't necessarily want an apology, but an explanation," Evenepoel said, according to Het Nieuwsblad. "I sent an email: ‘I am lying here in my bed half broken. I cannot do anything. And you are going to slander me before the whole world, while I know for myself that I did nothing wrong.
"This is also a good example of how they try to shift things onto the riders. It seemed to me as if they wanted to cover up that fall and lack of security, to let this take the upper hand. I thought that was a real shame. It turned out I was right. I didn't do anything wrong."
Evenepoel added that he had received a reply from Lappartient.
"He said they wanted to ‘investigate for the safety of the sport', and this and that. In the weeks before I had won the Vuelta a Burgos and the Tour de Pologne. As the race leader, I had to go to the anti-doping control every night as per protocol, which makes sense. Such an incident shows that they have no confidence in certain riders. And that is a shame."
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