Remco Evenepoel is ready to lead the team at the 78th edition of the race he won last year.
The last Grand Tour of the season is just a few days away, and Barcelona – the city of Antoni Gaudi and his fantastic works inspired by nature – will host the start of the race for just the second time in history. Not a road stage, as was the case in 1962, but a team time trial will kick off proceedings this weekend, but its impact on the final outcome will be insignificant, and that’s because the three weeks will feature a total of ten uphill finishes.
Arinsal, Xorret de Cati, Javalambre, the mighty Col du Tourmalet, Larra-Belagua, Angliru and its brutal gradients, and Bejes are just some of the many hurdles the peloton will face on their road to Madrid. Add to these a 25km individual time trial in Valladolid and an insane up-and-down course on the penultimate day, and the overall picture is that of an incredibly hard edition of the Vuelta a España.
Remco Evenepoel, who wrote history for Belgium and Soudal Quick-Step last year when he arrived in Madrid with the prestigious red jersey in his possession, is back at the start, his confidence buoyed by a spectacular season that has seen him win, among others, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, Clasica San Sebastian and the ITT World Championships.
“It will be quite special to return at La Vuelta with bib number one on my back and the beautiful Belgian Champion jersey on my shoulders, in what will be my first outing since conquering it in late June.”
“Spain is one of my favourite countries, I’ve always felt good and had a lot of success there, and hopefully the trend will continue over the next weeks. If you look over the course and the start list, you can see it’s going to be a very tough race, but I had a good preparation and can rely on a strong squad, so I have a lot of confidence and motivation ahead of the many challenges that will come”, explained the fourth-youngest rider to win the Spanish Grand Tour.
The reigning champion – who sits on ten victories since the start of the year – will be joined in Barcelona by a solid Soudal Quick-Step squad consisting of Andrea Bagioli, Mattia Cattaneo, Jan Hirt, James Knox, Casper Pedersen, Pieter Serry and Louis Vervaeke.
“We have a well-balanced team for this last Grand Tour of the year, comprising strong guys for the climbs, but also riders who can protect Remco on the flat and put him in a good position ahead of the climbs. We hope to have a good start in Barcelona, then we will continue taking it day by day and see how things pan out, especially as after the first couple of stages we will know more about our form and that of our opponents. We are motivated and looking forward to what we hope will be three strong weeks in Spain”, said sports director Klaas Lodewyck.
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