Cycling enthusiasts have only had this first name in their mouths since Sunday: Remco! And it will certainly be the same for the spectators who will go to Blegny this afternoon or to Namur this afternoon to watch the start and finish of the 62nd Grand Prix of Wallonia. The wonder of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl does not appear on the startlist of the day since he is in Australia for the World Championships but his name will logically come up in many conversations.
The races of standing of the Grand Prix de Wallonie (1.Pro) ultimately have everything to gain from performances by a boy like Remco Evenepoel. The enthusiasm in Belgium is enormous. The enthusiasm for the runner in particular but also for the sport of cycling in general, which finds itself under the spotlight of the media. All the spoken and televised newspapers mentioned, even those of the radio and television channels traditionally less inclined to talk about sport, his success at the Vuelta. It is now necessary to live on the planet Mars (and again) not to know who Remco is! Who says enthusiasm of the media says enthusiasm of the public, sponsors, public authorities, candidate cities to host races, volunteers, etc… A real virtuous circle.
“A real revival of interest”
Christopher Brandt is the boss of “TRW Organization”, the company that sets up the Grand Prix de Wallonie. When we contacted him on Monday, he was obviously focused on the preparations for his event which will end at the top of the Citadel of Namur, again taking the well-known Route Merveilleuse, skipped last year. But the ex-professional that he is (he participated in six Tours of France, five Tours of Italy and two Tours of Spain!) could not hide his satisfaction the day after the first title for a Belgian in a Grand Tour since 1978 (Christophe Brandt was born in… 1977!). “There is first of all a renewed interest in cycle races because they take place in a less monotonous way”, he explains. “There’s a lot more action, a lot more enthusiasm also from an audience that maybe wasn’t originally a bike-loving audience. The way these young riders race really engenders this additional popular enthusiasm. Moreover, with my collaborators of “TRW Organisation”, we clearly noticed it on our recent Tour de Wallonie. We really surfed the wave of the Tour de France. We saw a lot more people along the roads, at our arrivals and departures sites.”
“Belgians are a bit on top of the world!”
The little queen suffered a lot, first from the “doping years” and then from the health crisis. Many race officials were pouting, ready to put the key under the doormat. But Remco Evenepoel, Wout Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock, Tadej Pogacar, Arnaud DeLie and co made them smile and especially the desire to organize. ” There is a general positivism around cycling. It remains a free sport whose stars remain accessible despite, in particular, the Covid. And that’s very good! Plus, now, Belgian riders at the top. Let’s be honest: we never really had to complain in Belgium with incredible standard bearers. But here, we feel that there is a stronger dimension with a rider like Remco Evenepoel who won a Grand Tour. And then, when we also see what Wout Van Aert did in the Tour de France… For the moment, the Belgians are a bit on top of the world and when we see what is happening behind, we can hope to remain a strong nation of cycling in the years to come! “
The departure of this Grand Prix of Wallonia 2022 will be given at 12:30 p.m. in Blegny. The finish will be judged after 199.5 kilometers at the end of Avenue Marie d’Artois, on the heights of Namur, between 5.30 p.m. and 6 p.m., arrival a little later than usual because a women’s race was added, for the first time, to the program. Another proof of the good health of the sport of cycling!