Eddy Merckx has, once again, voiced his criticisms of Remco Evenepoel, this time saying "I admire his character, but he turned pro too early."
Evenepoel turned professional back in 2019 at the age of 18 with Deceuninck - Quick-Step and has already racked up an impressive 21 victories during his three years at WorldTour level
But that hasn't stopped one of the all-time greats from putting the 21-year-old down from time to time, most notably during the Road World Championships where Merckx said Evenepoel "mainly rides for himself" after the youngster had committed to being all-in for Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
"I admire his character- he is a rider of great class and very strong," Merckx said. "The problem is that he turned pro too early and skipped the other categories. As a result, he misses something in his preparation. I hope he can make up for that in the coming years and show that he is a super champion.”
Merckx then heaped praise on Van Aert: "He won Ghent-Wevelgem, Amstel and the stage over Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France. He is super strong for a non-climber, a real champion.”
Evenepoel has had yet another successful season, especially so considering he didn't start his season until early May at the Giro d'Italia as he was recovering from a horror crash at the Italian Monument Classic of Il Lombardia in 2020 where he suffered multiple injuries including a pelvis fracture and a contusion to his right lung.
He had a good start at the Giro but his lack of fitness and experience showed as eventual winner Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) started to stamp his authority with Evenepoel eventually abandoning.
But the Belgian returned to take eight victories during the season with overall wins at both the Tour of Belgium and Tour of Denmark along with one-day races. He also scored a place on the podium at both the European Championships road race and time trial as well as the World Championships time trial.
Evenepoel is set to start his 2022 season at the Vuelta a San Juan, starting January 30, which he won back in 2020, before potentially riding Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour de Suisse and the Vuelta a España with no mention of the Tour de France as of yet.
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