Remco Evenepoel just wants to wear the rainbow jersey once in 2022

He doesn't, however, want a transfer to the Ineos Grenadiers.

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Remco Evenepoel has been celebrating because there is a lot to celebrate.

But now that the airport greetings and the balcony appearances are over, it’s back to business. Well, not quite. Those celebrations mean that the 22-year-old doesn’t expect to contest the victory at Binche-Chimay-Binche on Tuesday, but instead gives him a chance to wear his rainbow jersey for the first time; the only time this year. A debut outing on home roads to give thanks to the fans and his team who have been a part of a season that is “more than a dream”.

But it is back to business in the sense that Remco Evenepoel is sitting in front of a laptop in yet another drab hotel room before a bike race. The light from the bedside lamp is harsh, the dark brown bed covers are depressing. There is the guaranteed odd piece of artwork on the wall – a painting of a red pair of slippers this time. There is an air conditioning unit seemingly defying gravity by clinging on to the thin slip of wall above the the entry to the bedroom.

“I’m looking forward to racing in the jersey for the first time,” he says. “To enjoy it one more time this year and after that I will be done,” a laugh escaping at the end of the sentence, the relief uncontainable that he will now get a break from a season that demanded laser-focus in order to achieve all that he has.

Amidst the celebrations, Evenepoel has been spending most of the week laying in bed. He’s just done a Grand Tour followed by a two-week trip to Australia to claim his world title. However, when he did step outside for a training ride, he returned once more to pandemonium. The news cycle wasn’t quite done with the rider who has dominated headlines for the past month; a rumour that the Ineos Grenadiers were circling overhead, trying to scoop him up from Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, kept the circus going a while longer.

“To be honest, to maybe talk a bit about the story,” Evenepoel begins when asked about the Ineos saga. “I was out training myself, like super relaxed. I went out of my door, I went with a friend, we stopped for coffee and cake, I arrived back home and then my phone exploded.

“I was actually really surprised,” he says. “Like I told Patrick [Lefevere] on phone, I didn’t know anything about this. I knew there was some interest from different teams – not only one team but different teams – but I didn’t want to know, because it was before the Vuelta. I didn’t want to know anything about it because I had some big goals ahead with the team and I really wanted to focus on that.”

Red and rainbow jerseys haven’t change how he feels.

“That’s still the case,” Evenepoel confirms. “I’m with the team until end of 2026, so that’s still three more years [sic]. That means I’m here with the team, I have confidence in the team, the team has confidence in me. I have no reason to leave. I’m really happy where I am now. We have to keep working like this.”

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, what he’s achieved this year is starting to sink in.

“This morning, when I was on the bike, when you have nothing to think about, you start to realise everything that has happened yesterday and the weeks before,” Evenepoel says. He won’t be at the start line of the final Monument of the season, Il Lombardia, as it’s a race he wants to win. He will return in the future with the intention of doing so.

“It was already a decision we made in the winter because we knew the combination of Vuelta and travel to Australia, and then coming back – it wouldn’t help to still be fresh for Lombardia,” Evenepoel explains. “And I think you really want to be fresh for Lombardia, it’s one of the last races of the season and if you’re not fresh it’s really difficult to go there.

“I’d rather go 100% fresh and fight for the win rather than struggle from the start and finish 10th or 15th. It’s a race I’d really like to win in my career once and if I want to I have to really prepare and it’s all in for that race.”

Now, all Evenepoel has to prepare for is his upcoming wedding, saying the idea of picking out a suit is more stressful than the World Championships road race. When he reaches December, 2022 will have been quite the year for 22-year-old Remco Evenepoel.

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