'Remco Evenepoel isn't the new Merckx, Pogačar is,' says Patrick Lefevere

“They will probably never become Remco's best friends,” Lefevere says of the high mountains

Remco Evenepoel
(Image credit: Getty)

Tirreno-Adriatico 2022 was billed as the first time Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel would face off against each in a bike race.

And while they both did line up, and Evenepoel lurked a mere nine seconds behind the Slovenian with two stages remaining, the penultimate day saw the Belgian blow up on the big mountain day, dropping out of the top 10 on GC.

Everyone has off days, apart from Tadej Pogačar, it seems, yet Quick-Step AlphaVinyl boss Patrick Lefevere says that perhaps Evenepoel for all his talents will never be able to dominate over the steepest gradients.

“They will probably never become Remco's best friends,” Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws of the relationship between Evenepoel and the toughest mountain ascents. Yet, Lefevere was impressed by his 22-year-old's mental toughness as he deals with an environment where whether he wins or doesn't, he dominates headlines in Belgium and the wider cycling world.

>>> Tadej Pogačar unbeatable?: 'I wouldn't say that'

“He keeps questioning himself and everything he does, handles the situation very well and has one thing in mind: to keep working hard," Lefevere said.

“The fact that Remco solves uphill [races] is considered by many to be an eighth wonder of the world. But hey, he will have to unload more often in his life."

One thing is for sure, Lefevere ascertains, the moniker of 'the new Merckx' was wrongly placed on the shoulders of his rider and is better worn by Pogačar. 

"The fact is: anyone who made him 'the new Merckx' was grossly mistaken in person. Not him, but Tadej Pogačar is 'the new Merckx'. That's clear now, I think."

Time will tell whether Evenepoel will evolve into a rider capable of winning a three-week stage race or whether he will continue to develop as an elite one-day and one-week stage racer.

“Whether there is a strong classic one-day racer in him, rather than a Grand Tour rider? That should become apparent very soon," Lefevere reckons. "But what if he is also dropped in Flèche- Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège? What are they going to make of it then?"

For all of the remarks Lefevere is criticised for making in the press, his loyalty and willingness to come out to bat for those under his employ is steadfast. 

 “Because of the lightning-fast breakthroughs of some other young talents. They aren't all Bernals or Pogačars," Lefevere explained. "Let us explore further and discover where we can get with Remco. We have patience. Hopefully you do too.”

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