As we are all aware, the Tour de Pologne has taken place under a sombre backdrop following the horrific scenes at the finish line of the first stage in Katowice. The race that usually provides light relief for riders in the summer once again turned into a subdued procession as the peloton grappled with the severity of the crash on the opening day. No team had to come to terms with the reality of that incident more than Deceuninck-Quick Step who looked set to attack the race on the sprints and the hills of Southern Poland.
As the race unfolded the following days, the team still managed to provide quite the performance despite all that shook them in Katowice.
The overwhelming favourite going into this race, Remco Evenepoel, was expected to pick up the fourth stage well ahead of the Tour de Pologne’s opening stage after having won the Vuelta a Burgos, one of the first stage races following the COVID-19 induced break.Embed from Getty Images
Evenepoel was fixated on victory in his first UCI World Tour race of the year
Once the flag dropped at the beginning of the fourth stage, a rolling stage around the town of Bukowina, Deceuninck looked hungry to take a win that would proclaim the hashtag of #ForzaFabio for themselves, providing a beacon of hope for a sport so troubled by the news of Jakobsen’s crash.
The team’s frontman would not leave anything to chance, emptying everything out onto the road. Once the Belgian struck out for victory, the elite group of favourites knew that it would be an incredibly difficult task to reel back the European Time Trial Champion, especially on the form that he has displayed since the season started back in January.Embed from Getty Images
Evenepoel has not lost a stage race during 2020, taking GC the win in four races
Upon his arrival at the finish in Bukowina, Remco held up a sign of solidarity and respect that spoke larger than any words. In a gesture that shows his wisdom to be far beyond his years, the Belgian unravelled the number ‘75’ worn by Fabio Jakobsen. As the noise still echoes around the cycling Twitter-sphere surrounding the crash in Katowice, Evenepoel provided a moment of reflection and unity that is needed in this time of great confusion and emotion.
As a member of the new wave of cycling, Jakobsen would be honoured to see Evenepoel’s gesture as a way of unifying all generations of cycling during these times.Embed from Getty Images
Evenepoel said after the stage that he ’took confidence in seeing the others struggle’
The 20-year-old phenomenon has already become the youngest UCI World Tour stage race winner since its re-vamp in the mid-2000s, but he has also become the first rider born in the 21st century to win a UCI World Tour race. This marks the changing of the guard at the highest level of professional cycling that is currently unfolding in the sport, headed by the likes of Evenepoel, Simmons and Pogačar who would identify as members of ‘Generation Z’. Who else should usher this era in than the man touted to become the next Eddy Merckx, certainly providing new hope for Belgian Grand Tour racing?
Following the mixed reception to Evenepoel’s victory salute in Burgos, this moment marks an important turning point in his career – not only in terms of his career as he takes his first UCI World Tour stage race victory, but also his maturity on the world stage. For someone aged just 20, many people were sceptical of Evenepoel’s maturity and self-control in comparison to the more mature and already established contenders. The threat of such young blood had certainly rocked the cycling community who are now bracing themselves for an era characterised by this young man, but now Evenepoel has shown to us all that he is ready for the big time. It’s hard to look past the fact now that his rise to prominence is a welcomed inevitability. Known simply as ‘Remco’, let’s appreciate this race win for what it is: the overture to the new age of cycling.