In a surprise change of schedule, Remco Evenepoel will race the Vuelta a España, according to an announcement from his Soudal Quick-Step team. His appearance bolsters an already strong startlist and promises the head-to-head matchup with Primož Roglič that fans were ultimately denied at both this year’s Giro d’Italia and the 2022 Vuelta.
“I am really excited to return at the Vuelta. I obviously have only great memories from my first participation last year when we had an amazing time and I can’t wait to be there again,” he said in a press release from his team. Excited he may be, but Evenepoel’s schedule change underlines that the Spanish Grand Tour was not his original objective for the year.
Instead, he had targeted May’s Giro d’Italia, and looked to be handily in contention with a win and pink jersey in the opening time trial. But his stage nine time trial victory, by a scant one second over Geraint Thomas, was quickly overtaken hours later with the news that Evenepoel had tested positive for COVID-19 and would leave the race.
That led to a massive restructuring of his schedule. Evenepoel raced June’s Tour de Suisse and showed promising form, but in quashing calls for him to start the Tour de France, he said he still felt lingering effects of his brush with the coronavirus.
Since Switzerland, Evenepoel has mostly been training at altitude at Val di Fassa, Italy in preparation to defend his World Road Champion title. But his race schedule for the second half of the year was extremely light, with just two other one-day races on his confirmed calendar: the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa, which he has won twice, and October’s Tour of Lombardy.
That’s changed now, as Evenepoel will get that all-important Grand Tour training load. Of particular interest is that it sets up a rematch of his highly anticipated showdown with eventual Giro winner Roglič, who announced in June that he would race the Vuelta.
Other competitors may include Giro runner-up Geraint Thomas, the UAE tandem of Marc Soler and João Almeida, and Richard Carapaz and Enric Mas, both of whom had targeted the Tour but crashed out on the opening stage. In short, the Vuelta is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing races of the 2023 season.
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