'My respect and appreciation for him is enormous, apparently is not mutual': Remco Evenepoel responds to Eddy Merckx's comments

Merckx recently spoke out against the young Belgians selection for the World Championships road race

Remco Evenepoel at a pre-race press conference in Flanders 2021 World Championships
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Remco Evenepoel has shared his disappointment after his "idol" Eddy Merckx spoke out against him being selected for the World Championships road race.

In an interview with Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium, Merckx said that Evenepoel "mainly rides for himself" and would not be good as a team helper for the team leader Wout van Aert, despite Evenepoel saying in an earlier interview that "everyone rides for Wout."

The 21-year-old, who recently managed third place in the World Championships time trial behind eventual winner Filippo Ganna (Italy) and Van Aert in second, spoke of his disappointment in a pre-race press conference.

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In a report by Het Nieuwsblad, Evenepoel said: "[Merckx] always has to say something. And that's a shame. For me he is an idol, someone from the same area that I look up to. My respect and appreciation for him is enormous, apparently is not mutual."

This isn't the first time Merckx has written about Evenepoel is a less than positive light as he previously said that Evenepoel thinks "he's already made it."

Evenepoel continued: "Every time I get criticism from him. And it's always before important moments. And that hurts. Maybe it's because I didn't join his son's team [Hagens Berman Axeon]. I don't start here to screw the team, that doesn't even cross my mind."

Evenepoel lines up alongside Van Aert as well as a very strong support squad that could potentially win the race outright themselves. 

With Jasper Stuyven, Yves Lampaert, Tiesj Benoot and Dylan Teuns being the stand-out names alongside Tim Declercq and Victor Campenaerts who are likely the early control riders.

Van Aert spoke in the same press conference about his chances and the rest of the team, adding that he believes Stuyven is the best chance for the squad if he has a bad day.

Speaking about Evenepoel, the Olympic silver medallist said: "The whole peloton is scared of Remco, he is a great weapon. If we send him forward, the rest will have to be on the defensive. 

"But to win he has to gain time alone so it's hard to win the race. We have to be sensible and always race to get me in a winning position. So he's not really a joker."

The men's elite road race takes place on Sunday, September 26 starting in the centre of Antwerp before heading over to the finish town of Leuven where they take on two circuits, one around the town and one around the tough hilly countryside on a 268.3km course.

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