Evenepoel’s Pre-Tour Press Conference Amid Euro 2024 Clash

Evenepoel’s preparation for the Tour was interrupted by a broken collarbone at Itzulia Basque Country in April, and he finished seventh overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné, showing he wasn’t at his best in the mountains. A mild illness during his recent training camp at Isola 2000 led him to skip the Belgian Championships. Despite these setbacks, he expressed satisfaction with his condition three days before the Grand Départ in Florence.

“I need to be happy with what I did in the past two or three weeks. I’ve arrived in the best shape possible,” Evenepoel said. “From the Dauphiné on, I tried to push myself to the maximum every day. So, from that side, I don’t have to blame myself for not training hard enough or pushing hard enough.”

Although he was pleased with his time trial win at the Dauphiné, Evenepoel acknowledged his mountain form wasn’t there yet. “The weight and the details you need to be a good climber weren’t there yet. But I worked on that in the training camp and at home, so my confidence wasn’t affected after the Dauphiné. Now I think I’m a few percentage points ahead of where I was at the Dauphiné.”

Adjustments and Ambitions

However, Evenepoel did reveal he had to tweak his workload recently due to the cold that forced him to opt out of the Belgian Championships. “I couldn’t do high-intensity training, so I couldn’t do 100% of what I needed,” he said. “Longer training rides weren’t a problem; it’s just that high-intensity training was not possible until yesterday.”

The build-up to this Tour has been shaped by the mass crash at Itzulia Basque Country, where defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglič were also among the fallers. All three lost training time to their injuries and will hope to improve their condition as the Tour progresses. The race’s tough opening stage, including the Col du Galibier on stage 4, will test their mettle early on.

“Will it affect me for the Tour? We’ll see. I hope to be up there in the first stage—not necessarily to win, but I don’t want to lose time,” Evenepoel said, mirroring Vingegaard’s hopes of improving as the Tour progresses. “I hope I can use the first week to improve a little bit as well. It would be good to go into my peak towards the third week. I hope it’s like that, but that’s easy to say.”

Contenders and Strategies

At the start of the season, the Tour was expected to be a four-way tussle between Evenepoel, Primož Roglič, Jonas Vingegaard, and Tadej Pogačar. However, Pogačar’s dominance at the Giro d’Italia has sharpened the hierarchy of the main contenders.

“I expect Tadej to be almost unreachable,” Evenepoel said. “What he showed in the Giro is already impressive and he didn’t have to go too deep, so it won’t have tired him out. I think Tadej will be the man to beat for this Tour de France.”

Pogačar’s team, UAE Team Emirates, featuring Adam Yates, João Almeida, and Juan Ayuso, will be expected to test Vingegaard’s readiness—and that of Evenepoel and Roglič—on the tough opening stage from Florence to Rimini. “If they decide that’s their tactic, we have to let them do what they want and just try to follow that pace as long as possible,” said Evenepoel, though he backed Vingegaard to hold firm. “Personally, I don’t think Jonas will crack in the first days, but I think UAE and especially Pogačar want to pay back what Jumbo did last year. I’m curious to see how they approach the first day. UAE want to show they’re the best team, like the Real Madrid of cycling.”

Evenepoel maintained that a top-five finish is his goal, though expectations are high. He downplayed the idea of going on the offensive in the opening stage. “The only way I can win is by going solo, but it’s not smart to do that with some GC ambitions in my head,” he said. “Honestly, in the first week, I’ll be more cautious than I am in Classics. You have to be smart; the Tour isn’t one week, it’s three long weeks. You have to economise where possible. I’ll try to be as calm as possible and see how the race develops.”