Deceuninck-QuickStep youngster Remco Evenepoel has barely started his pro career, but already talk in the Belgian press is turning to the 'next Evenepoel'. 17-year-old Cian Uijtdebroeks, a first-year junior, is attracting attention from the Belgian powerhouse team as well as Jumbo-Visma and Team Sunweb.
Earlier this year, the young Belgian won his first major race at junior level with the Acrog-Tormans team, soloing to victory at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne from 50km out.
In 2019 he won the Critérium Européen des Jeunes three-day stage race by 3:41, and also took wins at the Belgian Championships road race, the Tour de l'Ain, Chrono des Nations and Challenge Voeckler.
Uijtdebroeks' progress continued last week as he spent four days with Deceuninck-QuickStep at their training camp in the Dolomites. On Friday morning, Evenepoel himself commented on the youngster's progress on Twitter.
"When he becomes double Belgian champion, European champion and World champion we can talk! Or wins European Championships with a ten-minute lead!" joked Evenepoel in response to a tweet comparing the duo, referring to his own victories.
Of the trio of WorldTour teams reportedly chasing Uijtdebroeks, Deceuninck-QuickStep would already be front-runners, with the team enjoying strong links with Balen BC, the cycling club behind Acrog-Tormans.
The club has provided a wealth of riders to the pro peloton over the years, including Jasper Philipsen, Herman Frison, Jelle Vanendert and Kevin Seeldraeyers. Current QuickStep directeur sportif Wilfred Peeters also came up through the club, as did Evenepoel and Tom Boonen.
"He tasted the atmosphere in the team," Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. "He came along even though his team coach wasn't happy about it, but it's proof that he has balls.
"He gives a good impression, but is it my intention to offer a 17-year-old a pro contract? Not at all. They're not all Evenepoels, and we also have to avoid getting into a situation like Sunweb is doing with [Marco] Brenner, who is already contracted at that age."
Acrog-Tormans chairman Jef Roberts admitted that Uijtdebroeks might eventually follow Evenepoel in skipping the U23 ranks to turn pro but told Wielerflits that he'd stay with the team for another season.
"If we are no longer plagued by COVID-19 then we will enjoy him for another year," Roberts said. "It is true that, like Remco, he may skip the espoirs level and immediately move on to the pros.
Roberts added that Uijtdebroeks' dominant Kuurne victory isn't even the most impressive feat he's seen from the rider.
"We go on a training camp to Spain every year," he said. "There, we plan a 7km climb to hold a time trial on every year. Two years ago, Evenepoel broke Jasper Philipsen's record by over two minutes. During our last camp, Cian went under that by another half minute.
"His sprint is his only flaw, but he has no equal in climbing or time trialling. He does things I've never seen before."
As possibly the next rider in a long line of talent to make the step up from Balen BC, Cian Uijtdebroeks is a name worth keeping track of.
Als hij dubbel bk, ek en wk wordt kunnen we is praten 😜!En EK minstens met 10’ voorsprong winnen!July 24, 2020
A photo posted by @cianuijtdebroeks on Jul 13, 2020 at 12:50am PDT
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