Remco Evenepoel will not turn his gaze to this summer’s Tour de France after being forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia while in the race lead.
Soudal – Quick Step and Evenepoel will now re-evaluate what the rest of the season looks like for their rider, but team boss Patrick Lefevere has ruled out a re-jig to factor in a debut French Grand Tour appearance.
“No, Remco is not going to the Tour. That wouldn’t be very smart either,” Lefevere told RTBF. “It is important that he now fully recuperates. We will test his health and then see how he can continue his planning.”
The current road world champion will instead focus on defending his rainbow jersey in Scotland in August but a decision on another title defence at the Vuelta a España is uncertain at this point.
“He will probably want and be able to ride the world championships in August, but it is still too early to judge the Vuelta,” Lefevere explained.
In the aftermath of Evenepoel’s exit, Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport accused the rider of using his COVID-19 infection as an excuse to leave the race. Infuriated by these accusations, Lefevere made an appearance in the press room to confront the journalists from the publication.
“A line has been crossed. Too bad they don’t know the word libel. Actually, I should sue them for defamation,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad after the incident.
“Remco’s father was very angry. How can you accuse someone who is sick, has corona, of fleeing [for] home? Who are they to question a doctor? That is anything but correct. Moreover, Remco has not fled. He didn’t leave home until 9:30 on Monday. I have spoken to him via Whatsapp in the meantime. He is still positive and still has symptoms. Apparently there are still infected riders in the Giro who continue to ride, but that is their own choice.”
On Wednesday morning, before the start of stage 11, Jan Hirt, Mattia Cattaneo, Josef Černý and Louis Vervaeke all tested positive for coronavirus and were forced to abandon. Soudal – Quick Step are left with three riders: Davide Ballerini, Ilan Van Wilder and Pieter Serry.