Winter training has begun for the professional peloton, with Remco Evenepoel of Soudal Quick-Step among the armada of riders who have headed to Spain’s Mediterranean coast to burn off the beers and frites of the off-season. In his first training ride from Calpe, Evenepoel has seemingly confirmed his main goal for 2024 – the Tour de France.
Having clocked up two short rides in Belgium last week, Evenepoel began his winter training in Calpe, Spain, on Monday. The 23-year-old rode a 100km loop with his friend Siebe Roesems (Alpecin-Deceuninck Development Team) and set tongues wagging, titling his Strava file as ‘Allez, c’est parti! En route vers La Grande Boucle 🇮🇹->🇫🇷.’
In other words: ‘Here we go! On the way to La Grande Boucle,’ or ‘the big loop,’ as the Tour de France is often affectionately known.
The 2024 Tour de France has long been the goal for Soudal Quick-Step’s Evenepoel, with the Belgian’s racing calendar carefully sculpted over the last few years to develop his skill sets for a tilt at winning the biggest bike race in the world.
As the race appeared on the horizon, however, doubts had seemingly crept in as to whether Evenepoel was ready for the ultimate showdown against the likes of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Primož Roglič (soon-to-be Bora-Hansgrohe) and reigning champion, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
The ascension to Grand Tour contender status was complete for Evenepoel when he won the Vuelta a España in 2022, but illness-hampered bids at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta this season have left team boss Patrick Lefevere with question marks over how Evenepoel will stack up against the best in July.
It seems these reservations are not only held by team management, with Evenepoel himself said to be eyeing up a return to the Giro d’Italia in May to prove himself capable of winning another Grand Tour. These plans were revealed by Lefevere after the Tour de France route was announced in late October, but the Belgian veteran was clear in that the team advised against such a heavy calendar for Evenepoel.
Some have read Evenepoel’s Strava post to mean that he is determined to do the Giro-Tour double in 2024, given the Italian and French flags included, but the more likely scenario is that Evenepoel is referring to the Tour’s Grand Départ in 2024, which will take place in Florence, Italy.
More information about Evenepoel’s racing calendar will likely be revealed at the Soudal Quick-Step training camp next month, but it appears that the Tour de France remains set in stone as his big ambition for the summer. It remains to be seen whether the Giro d’Italia features in these plans, or if the team have successfully talked their star rider out of that idea.