Tom Boonen has applauded rising Belgian star Remco Evenepoel for his world titles in Innsbruck this week, but says the junior cyclist “needs to learn to ride tactically at WorldTour level.”
The 18-year-old won the time trial by over a minute and soloed away from his rivals with 20 kilometres remaining for the road world title two days later.
Next year, he leaps to the professional ranks with Quick-Step Floors, the team that helped Boonen win so many classics.
“His biggest handicap is that he has never really had to race, he is just riding a high pace. Racing is also tactics, riding in a tricky way so that your rivals have to go a bit deeper than you do.”
Evenepoel won all four of the stage races he competed in this year.
His titles came via solo moves.
In the European championships, he rode clear in the third of 11 laps and won with 10 minutes in hand.
With the two world titles, he now counts 22 wins for 2018.
In 2019, he will make the rare leap from junior to professional ranks with top team Quick-Step Floors.
His plan is to develop into a Grand Tour cyclist.
“Now he just rides everyone to death. He may be a bit further ahead than other boys in his development,” Boonen added.
“The capabilities of Evenepoel are enormous, but you also have to put it in the right context. With the pros, he will ride against men who are already fully developed, but at Quick-Step they will handle this well.”
Boonen won the World Championship title and stages in the Tour de France.
In a career that ran until 2017, he collected three Tour of Flanders and four Paris-Roubaix titles.
After Boonen and with Gilbert nearing the end of his career, Belgium is looking for its future stars.
“Remco is an exceptional talent, and people who normally never talk about racing are now asking me about him, and then you know something is starting to happen,” added Boonen.
“He actually passed his first test this year, because he had to make an important choice about his future [deciding to turn professional at a young age], and with all those decisions, he’s still winning. Then you know he’s strong headed.”