Mathieu van der Poel has described Remco Evenepoel as “arrogant” – but says the Belgian youngster can get away with bold statements of intent because of his talent.
Evenepoel is currently recovering from a crash at Il Lombardia in August and will line-up in 2021 as one of the sport’s most-marked and exciting figures, after a 2020 season in that he won each of the four stage races he rode.
Van der Poel will also share the limelight once again when racing resumes, the three-time cyclocross world champion winning the Tour of Flanders in October, his 27th professional win on the road. He is also continuing to ride mountain bike.
Speaking to Belgian magazine Humo, Van der Poel said that he was impressed by Evenepoel’s ability but questioned his public persona.
“What he can do now, I couldn’t at that age,” the 25-year-old said. “Riding such solos and winning every race in which you participate – that is unseen.
“[But] I sometimes find his statements borderline, but everyone is the way they are. If he wants to say things that way, he should do it.
“This may seem arrogant to us, but in his view it probably mainly shows self-confidence. Well, he may make great statements, but he often answers with the pedals too.”
Evenepoel’s successes pre- and post-lockdown led to him being touted as a potential winner of the Giro d’Italia by Vincenzo Nibali, something the former footballer embraced. Injury, though, prevented him from competing.
Having grand ambitions and welcoming public pressure is not something that should automatically have negative connotations, Van der Poel added. “I also said that I want to become world champion in the three disciplines, plus Olympic champion on the mountain bike. These are also ambitious statements.”
Meanwhile, the Alpecin-Fenix star refuted the idea that he could imitate his long-term rival Wout van Aert and also be able to play the role of a super-domestique in the mountains.
“What Van Aert has done in the Tour – riding in front of someone else – is not my ambition. I don’t even know if I could. But as long as I have not ridden a Tour, such comparisons make no sense.”