Once again expectations were so high for a 21-year-old rider who will make his debut in a grand tour.
From Saturday in the Giro d'Italia, many eyes will be focused on the self-assured super talent Remco Evenepoel, who has only just returned after a terrible crash.
"There are people who say he can win the Giro."
It is only a few years ago that Evenepoel dreamed of a career as a professional football player.
Between 2011 and 2014 he was a talented left midfielder in the youth of PSV.
"Remco was very skilled and technical and had a good insight and overview", Kristof Aelbrecht told NU.nl.
The Belgian was assistant coach of his team in Evenepoel's last year in Eindhoven.
"At PSV he was one of the better ones in his class. I think he had what it takes to become a professional. He was very passionate and did a lot for it."
In 2014, however, the Belgian youth international returned to Anderlecht, mainly because the almost two hours travel time between Eindhoven and his hometown Schepdaal near Brussels made him tired.
The midfielder stopped playing football in 2017 and threw himself into cycling, the sport in which his father Patrick had a modest professional career.
That immediately became a great success, because a year later Evenepoel was Belgian, European and world champion in the juniors.
Both on the road and in time trial.
Remco Evenepoel in 2011 and 2018. #PSV # InnsbruckTirol2018
Avatar Author BVDooijeweert Moment of places 15:55 - September 27, 2018
'In Belgium you are quickly called arrogant'
Cycling journalist Joeri De Knop
traveled to Italy
this week for
Het Laatste Nieuws
to beat the Giro.
He has been following Evenepoel's career from the start.
"Normally we hardly write about the junior category in our newspaper. But what Remco did was so special that we picked him up very quickly."
"It was immediately clear that it was a great talent," says De Knop.
"He started to win everything there was to be picked up. And the way he did that also appealed to the imagination. Often after long solos with a big lead."
What also immediately stood out is the outspoken character of the youngster.
Especially for a Belgian, Evenepoel has a fair amount of self-confidence.
"At PSV his personality already stood out. Remco thought a lot about football and was able to express himself well to coaches and teammates", says Aelbrecht.
"In Belgium you are very quickly called arrogant. Fat necks, we say," continues the former trainer of Evenepoel.
"I have never experienced it that way. He was always open to the opinions of others, I found it a very pleasant guy to work with."
It's 'de Remco' so @wielerplaatjes: Evenepoel shows new victory gesture in Burgos: "This is the Remco" https://t.co/eHW4dx4exo #sporza
Avatar Author peedebeMoment of places21: 08 - July 30, 2020
'His generation is much more of a blunt'
Evenepoel's alleged arrogance became visible, for example, with a victory in the Tour of Burgos.
As he crossed the finish line, he wiped his fingers over his shoulder, as if he had casually won the race.
And with his victory at the World Junior Championships in 2018, he made a goatee by his chin with his fingers.
"That GOAT gesture (Greatest Of All Time, ed.) Came to a lot of criticism in Belgium," says De Knop.
"Some people here like the fact that he has such a distinct character, others say: 'should it all be this way?'"
"He is a child of our time," says the cycling reporter.
"The young generation is much more spontaneous, more of a blunt than the older generation."
"Remco has sometimes made firm statements that were on or over the edge. The public in Belgium was not always pleased with that", says De Knop, who does not mind.
"Let him be himself. We could use a little salt and pepper in the sport."
"He is still young, I am sure he will be a bit calmer in four or five years. He has very sweet and hard-working parents who brought him up in the right way."
#GOAT #evenepoel #wk
Avatar Author Turtleneck Moment of places 15:58 - 27 September 2018
'He will certainly try to conquer the pink jersey'
As long as the talk is accompanied by performance, most Belgians will be able to appreciate Evenepoel's behavior, De Knop thinks.
The journalist also sees the talent's self-confidence as an advantage.
"He knows very well what he can and cannot do. He will not just start a long attack, but knows exactly how long he can maintain a high pace. He is very serious and passionate about the sport."
Evenepoel won all four stage races in 2020 where he started.
But after a bad crash in August that broke his pelvis, he did not act for months.
Upon his return to the peloton in the Giro, expectations are sky high for the 21-year-old.
"Of course we have to wait and see how he is physically doing", says De Knop.
"But the whole of Belgium is under the spell of Remco Evenepoel these days."
"There are people who say he can win the Giro, but let's be a little careful. It will only be his first race of three weeks and he has never climbed a mountain above 2,000 meters, we don't know how he got there. is going to perform. "
One thing is certain: Evenepoel does not have the character to follow the wheel anonymously for three weeks.
De Knop: "The Giro starts on Saturday with his specialty: the time trial. He will certainly try to conquer the pink jersey immediately, or else later in the first week."
See also: Preview Giro stage 1: Time trial specialists compete for pink jersey