Remco Evenepoel rode the Vuelta a Espana 2022 at a very high level, but both of his attempts to fight for the pink and red jerseys in 2023 didn't end up as planned. At the Giro d'Italia he abandoned with Covid-19 whilst at the Vuelta he suffered a bad day and dropped out of GC contention. Patrick Lefevere is uncertain if the Belgian is ready to match Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard.
"I think it was a combination of several factors. Remco has raced a lot this year and he probably did not take enough time to recover from his Covid infection. Maybe he should have restarted in the Tour of Belgium instead of the Tour de Suisse, which was much harder," Lefevere told La Dernière Heure. Here he, as the team has done for a few months, tries to look for a justification on Evenepoel's difficult stage 13 at the Vuelta.
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Having looked strong and before, that day in the Pyrenees saw him completely fall out of GC contention and it will be a pebble in Soudal - Quick-Step's shoe. Opinions are present between the getting back to action too quickly, or doing too much work before the Vuelta which then led to fatigue during the race itself. What we do know is that in 2022, despite having shown good signs, he hasn't been able to ride a Grand Tour full-on for three weeks and with the Tour de France debut on the horizon, the team is uncertain of the level he will show next summer.
"As a result, we still have doubts about the exact level he can reach in the Tour de France against guys like Vingegaard and Pogacar," Lefevere states. "We would have preferred if he could enjoy the Giro for three weeks before discovering the Tour de France. But because of all those setbacks this year, he immediately has to discover himself in the Tour." Evenepoel has not shown himself too fond of the Tour de France route, and it remains open that he can race the Giro beforehand in search of the pink jersey once again.