Axel Merckx warns Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and other young stars not to burn out early

Young riders have dominated the biggest races of the 2020 season

Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert at the 2020 Tour of Flanders (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Axel Merckx has warned the sport's youngest stars not to burn out too early, especially the ones combining road and cyclocross together.

The team principal of Hagens Berman Axeon mainly focused on Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who are dominating road and field at the moment.

Merckx, son of the legendary cyclist Eddy, said that these younger riders need to learn from star rider in the women's peloton Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv), after she dominated for years but then lost form and missed most of the 2015 season with illness.

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Speaking in his column in La Dernière Heure, (opens in new tab) Merckx said that Vos "has done and won everything for years: the road, time trial, track, cyclocross. But one day her body said stop.

Merckx added: "(She) fell ill and never returned to her old level, except for a few flashes… I hope that Wout and Mathieu will think about this with their trainers and entourage."

Both Van der Poel and Van Aert finished their road seasons after their two-up battle in the Tour of Flanders which was won by Van der Poel by half a wheel.

But now they are launching into the cyclocross season with Van Aert returning to a full calendar after a year of limited cross races, following a very nasty crash in the 2019 Tour de France.

Merckx continued: "It seems very soon that Wout van Aert is already back in the field. His road season had only just ended,

"He has also been out for a while with an injury, the energy it took to get back from that should not be underestimated.

"In the meantime, he hasn’t had a real break in three years. Just like Van der Poel, I am a bit worried about that."

In news related to his team, Hagens Berman Axeon, Merckx said that he and his team "still needed €300,000 for the budget for 2021 and have now more or less found half. As a result, we will be able to run a normal season with a nice program in Europe,"

The team has developed some of the peloton's top talent with Giro d'Italia 2020 winner, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), João Almeida (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), Jasper Philipsen (soon to be Alpecin-Fenix) and Rubén Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) being just three of the team's alumni.

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Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!


I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.


It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.


After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.


When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.


My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.