The 19-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step neo-pro assumed the race lead after an audacious attack on the tough Belgium Tour stage 2.
Shaking his head in disbelief and with his arms high in the air while getting a raucous welcome from the hundreds of spectators who got to witness his first victory since making the jump from the junior ranks to the World Tour, Remco Evenepoel crossed the finish line in Zottegem at the end of the action-packed day two of the Belgium Tour.
It’s my first pro win and it really means a lot to me. When I crossed the finish line, I saw my parents and that was just so beautiful.
For me it’s very important that they were here and I could share this moment with them. It’s incredible when you see the names here at the start, I never thought I could actually win my first race here, despite bringing a good form into the race”, an ecstatic Remco said after crossing the line.
The writing was on the wall in the last couple of races, where he helped the team capture two stage wins and the overall classification at the Hammer Limburg, and Remco confirmed not only the hype which he carried from his junior days, but also the immense potential he has showcased on a consistent basis in the past two years. On Thursday, on a 180km-long stage that featured cobblestones segments and demanding hills, including the mythical Muur-Kapelmuur, the young Belgian continued to shine, taking the race by the scruff of its neck and storming off the front of the leading group with over 20 kilometers to go.
At that point, what had been the pack numbered around twenty riders, four of whom were Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s, and only one was able to join Evenepoel, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal). Evenepoel hammered it at the front, helping the move open a 20-second lead with ten kilometers to go and take a serious option of going all the way. When they entered the final seven kilometers, Campenaerts crashed on a left-hand bend, leaving just the 19-year-old in the front.
Unfazed by this incident or the furious chase that ensued behind, Remco soldiered on and continued to show incredible grit and determination, stretching out his advantage, while also picking up vital bonus seconds in the Golden Kilometer. Fifty meters from home, the Belgian prodigy finally sat up and let everything sink in, as he savoured his shining moment before jumping in his family’s arms and celebrating his amazing exploits, which saw him become the 12th different Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider to taste success this season.
“The harder the race was, the better I felt, so I tried to save my legs as much as possible during the stage, especially as I knew I could do something in the finale. That’s what I did on the penultimate climb and I felt it was the perfect moment, as behind me they had some doubts and were looking at each other. Having done a recon last week, I knew the parcours and I pushed hard going into the corners as the kilometers ticked down.”
Ahead of Friday’s pan-flat 9.2km individual time trial around Grimbergen, Remco is the new leader of the general classification and carries a 51-second advantage over the next rider in the standings – who incidentally is teammate Fabio Jakobsen, second on the stage and new holder of the points jersey at the 89th Belgium Tour.
“The race is far from being over and I really don’t think about the GC. I just want to enjoy this moment together with the team. Thirteen is supposed to mean bad luck, but surely, not for me. I love this number, it’s my lucky number and winning on June 13 with bib number 13 on my back and on home turf makes it even more special”, concluded Evenepoel after becoming the youngest ever rider to get a victory in a HC or higher categorised race since the World Tour was created.
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen/ Getty Images