Rider Feature: On Saturday, Remco Evenepoel put his name in the record books – The youngest winner of a WorldTour race and the third youngest winner of a Classic. The ‘Next Big Thing’ – a ‘Phenomenon’ – the next ‘Merckx’, all have been said about the young Belgian. We take a look at the man of the future… and now!
Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Remco Evenepoel won the 39th edition of the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday, taking his first WorldTour victory at just 19 years old. This is his fourth success with the pros as he won the Baloise Belgium Tour overall, the points competition and stage 2.
Evenepoel (19 years old and 190 days old) became the third youngest rider to win a big one-day race. Only Victor Fastre (18 years and 362 days, in 1909) and Georges Ronsse (19 years and 102 days in 1925) were younger. But that was almost a century ago…
The San Sebastián win
The young Belgian is amazing and his potential is immense. Nobody really knows where he could go. The Belgian has attracted many comments since his professional debut. Cyrille Guimard, who was the manager of Hinault, Fignon and Lemond, who was nearly speechless when he witnessed the performance of Evenepoel.
Cyrille Guimard spoke to RTBF: “Since the Morbihan trophy last year, I see the hatching of the new God; Remco Evenepoel” explained Guimard, who won 7 Tours de France as a sports director. “He’s not the new Merckx, but Merckx + Hinault with a zest of Bernal and Mbappe, a pity for those who dreamed of winning the Tour after 2020 or the Tokyo Olympics,” added the Frenchman who seems to be under the spell of the Belgian.
Guimard: “I see the hatching of the new God”
Eddy Merckx, now 74, won Milano-Sanremo seven times, plus all five monuments, and nearly every classic. He also won every Grand Tour, the Tour de France five times and setting the all-time race record of 34 stage wins.
“For a 19-year-old to win such a competition… what he did is exceptional,” Merckx told VTM. “This is exceptional. We knew that Remco has a large engine. The fact that he is already showing it proves that he is mature early. He is ready for the big job. Can he follow in my footsteps? Maybe he will even get better. Remco has all the qualities to make it happen.”
Merckx: “Can he follow in my footsteps? Maybe he will even get better”
Roger (Mr. Paris-Roubaix) De Vlaeminck praised Evenepoel: “But when I was nineteen I was riding equally fast.”
Roger De Vlaeminck is enthusiastic about Remco Evenepoel, but tries to dampen expectations: “Whether I have ever seen such a young rider do this? Well, me and Eddy Merckx. The fact that he is still young does not play such a role in my opinion. I rode just as fast at the age of nineteen as at the age of twenty-three.”
“Over the years you will become a bit stronger and better, but you can or cannot ride fast,” De Vlaeminck said to Belgian Radio 1. “We now have to wait and see what he can do on the cols and in Grand Tours. I’m still a bit careful about that. But the victory of Evenepoel is nevertheless a great achievement. There are no words for what I have seen.”
Finally, the four-time winner of Paris-Roubaix tries to take the pressure off the young rider: “Above all, we should not put too much pressure on him. It has been a long time since we had such a person. So we may have high expectations, but we must not be constantly talking about it. Certainly not the journalists.”
De Vlaeminck: “When I was 19 I was riding equally fast.”
For Remco Evenepoel a dream came true on Saturday, the 19-year-old Belgian impressively won the Clásica San Sebastián. “I can’t believe it,” Evenepoel said several times in front of the camera. “It was a very high risk to attack so early,” continued the Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider. “But I knew how much power I have … I just can’t believe it.”
To win the Clásica San Sebastián at the age of 19, despite powerful victories in the Baloise Belgium Tour and the Adriatica Ionica Race earlier in the year, Evenepoel did not expect that either. “I am going to say it very honestly: I felt bad all day, so I really did not expect this.”
The much older (3 years) Egan Bernal
“It makes you dream when young riders [like 22-year-old Egan Bernal (Ineos)] step up and immediately win the Tour de France. It is an incentive to go twice as fast and to be on the highest step like him,” Evenepoel told Het Nieuwsblad. “But the plan is that I won’t ride the Tour before 2023. Before, I’ll do the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, but it can always gain momentum. I have more than three years to work for that, then my baby fat will be gone. Only then will we really be able to see how strong I can become.”
“Eddy Merckx says that I might be better than him? Nice words, but it would be very, very difficult to match his palmarès. My dream? Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Lombardia, the Giro, the Tour, the Vuelta, the worlds, and the Olympics, when I have all of those, I will stop racing!”
A selection of Remco’s wins
It doesn’t seem that long since we were saying the same things about Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert. Both coming from cyclo-cross and being very successful in their first (proper) season on the road. Van der Poel is still concentration on his mountain bike career, but winning the Amstel Gold Race, Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl isn’t too shabby. Until his Tour de France crash Van Aert had won a stage and worked hard for the team. The season had been stunning: Belgian National TT Champion and 3rd in the road race, points jersey in the Critérium du Dauphiné and two stage wins, plus 2nd in the E3 Binckbank Classic, 3rd in the Strade Bianche and 6th in Milan–San Remo. But Remco is 5 years younger.
A load of talent in this photo
The only worry is that it has all come too soon. Let’s hope not.
Remco Evenepoel – The Little Cannibal