Evenepoel, 20, will be riding in his first Grand Tour, with the Giro live on Eurosport from Saturday October 3.

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The youngster could be a “big surprise” in the event according to Nibali, with the two-time Giro champion also expecting a tough challenge from defending champion Richard Carapaz, Jakob Fuglsang, and Simon Yates.

“It’s a big honour that a multiple Grand Tour winner has backed me to be one of the big favourites in that race,” Evenepoel said.

“It only gives me motivation if someone like him tells that to the media. He is not going to lie.

“He is a guy with a lot of years of experience, so if he said it I think it can be true. But for myself, I am not going to talk. You can only talk after October 25.

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“As it is my first Grand Tour I would not consider myself as one of the favourites, but maybe as an outsider, because everybody knows I climb well and that I have a good TT.

“It is my first Grand Tour so we cannot say how I will feel after two weeks of racing, but I have done some recons and it is pretty hard.”

Evenepoel won the general classification at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina and Volta ao Algarve in Portugal before the coronavirus disrupted the season.

As the European time trial champion he will be targeting those races in Italy when challenging for the pink jersey.

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“The first day, it’s not that I want to take the pink jersey, but I want to take time on the other GC guys. But I will go all out 16k and see what the result is,” he added.

“The second time trial is something I really look forward to because it is pretty hard and it’s not technical, it’s almost all straight lines up and down, so it is something that should really be an advantage for me, maybe.

“But of course there are other stages going almost 3,000m of altitude which are not really in my advantage but I am working on that.”

‘My dream is to win a Grand Tour’ - Evenepoel has big ambitions

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