Remco Evenepoel says he wouldn’t have believed the success he has achieved in his first year as a professional rider.
The 19-year-old said he intended to spend his debut season at WorldTour learning the ropes, but he has surprised even himself with major wins.
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Evenepoel has won five races in his first year, living up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him after his domination of the junior ranks.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper AS, Evenepoel said: “It’s a magnificent year. I faced it with the intention of learning and the reality is that everything has gone better than I thought. I have won victories I could not imagine.
“I didn’t worry or want to push myself. If someone had told me that in my first year I was going to achieve the victories that I have achieved, I would not have believed it.”
Evenepoel took his first pro win with a stage of the Belgium Tour in June, quickly following up by taking the general classification.
He went on to win a stage of Adriatico Ionica, before taking the biggest win of his career at Clásica San Sebastián, his first WorldTour victory.
Less than a week after his emphatic solo glory in San Sebastián, Evenepoel stunned to win the European time trial championship title in Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
Evenepoel’s unparalleled success rate in the junior ranks sparked comparisons with Eddy Merckx, widely considered the greatest cyclist of all time, with the suggestions only becoming more prevalent given his maiden season.
“It hasn’t hurt me and I don’t take it badly,” Evenepoel said of the comparison.
“I have always been clear that it was a compliment, something nice that people tell you, not a way to hurt me.
“In fact, it’s a comparison that makes no sense. My goal is not to be known as the new Merckx, but as a rider called Remco Evenepoel who is trying to do things well.”
Evenepoel, a promising under-16 footballer who played for the Belgian national team before switching to cycling, will now look to the Yorkshire World Championships where he hopes to ride both the elite time trial and men’s road race.