Lefevere gives sobering update and adjusts Tour de France outlook for Evenepoel over allergies, weight and illness Cycling

Lefevere gives sobering update and adjusts Tour de France outlook for Evenepoel over allergies, weight and illness

Lefevere gives sobering update and adjusts Tour de France outlook for Evenepoel over allergies, weight and illness

With Remco Evenepoel, Belgian cycling has renewed hope of competing for a podium spot in the Tour. However, the Soudal-Quick Step leader, who will debut in the world's biggest bike race on June 29, has had a troubled preparation. He decided on Friday to skip the road race of the Belgian National Championships (June 23) due to illness. According to team boss Patrick Lefevere, Evenepoel was already struggling with his health during the Critérium du Dauphiné.

These are unfavorable signs leading up to the Tour de France, where Evenepoel is expected to play a major role in the general classification. In Het Nieuwsblad's Grand Tour Preview, Lefevere has already tempered expectations. The team boss confirmed that his protégé was repeatedly tested for COVID-19 during the Dauphiné, something Lidl-Trek leaders Tao Geoghegan Hart and Giulio Ciccone also faced. Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu also tested positive for COVID-19. Evenepoel did not.

Evenepoel attributed his throat issues to an allergy to pollen and dust mites. There was even serious consideration of removing carpets from French hotels, with sponsor Unilin offering to quickly install a new floor every day. The team doctor, however, expects that medication will suffice. Nonetheless, Lefevere acknowledges that the allergies could pose a problem in the Tour in July. "The accommodations in France, well... There's hotels where you shouldn't look under the bed, or you won't sleep. If you drop your suitcase, dust flies up."

Continue reading below the photo.

Allergies, weight and illness: Lefevere lowers expectations for Evenepoel in the Tour de France
Evenepoel was not yet healthy, in form (and at his weight) in the Dauphiné

Lefevere warns: "More annoyed than usual"

Another issue for Evenepoel, as with every GC contender, is weight. "Remco has the disadvantage that you can see it immediately in his face. It’s just one kilo, but it matters in the mountains," explains Lefevere, highlighting the importance of low weight to compete with the best on the climbs. "Weight has become so crucial, even in spring," says the team boss, continuing with an example. "In April, after the spring classics, we had a major evaluation meeting with all the staff. No one dares to speak up, but I took the last word: 'In my opinion, those riders were too heavy. True or not?' I then heard: 'Two kilos, two kilos, and four kilos.' You see, the old man still notices. Who was it? I won’t say. Sometimes cycling isn't difficult, of course. Our doctor Yvan Vanmol has been saying his entire career: fat doesn’t ride fast."

Through a high-altitude training camp, Evenepoel is supposed to get his weight ready for the Tour, and so Soudal-Quick Step remains fully focused on the general classification in the Tour de France. There is no room for a sprinter. "That's the case with GC teams. No one takes a sprinter anymore. I talked about it within the team this morning. I understand the logic of focusing entirely on the GC, but it's against my nature. If we haven't won a stage in the first week of the Tour, I get annoyed. And I'll quickly say it myself: more annoyed than usual," the flamboyant team boss warns with a wink.

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