Speaking to Cycling Weekly at Rouleur Live (opens in new tab), the 42-year-old said: “My advice [to Evenepoel] would be what he’s doing right now, get away from Belgium as much as possible.
“Take your family with you, train in Spain, relax a little bit, so there’s always a barrier in between the crazy Flemish people and yourself.”
Asked how he found being in the public eye, Boonen said: “I didn’t like it. Nobody likes it, I think.
“Why would you want to be famous? You lose all your privileges of not being famous. As a bike rider, I wanted to race bikes and be a good bike rider. I never asked to be famous, so I never liked it.
“I loved riding my bike and I loved being at races and having people enjoy those races, but I never liked the part of being famous.”
Boonen became world champion in 2005, when he out-sprinted Alejandro Valverde to the title in Madrid, Spain. That same season, the Belgian claimed his first victories at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, races that he would go on to win four and three times respectively.
Due to their shared prowess in one-day races, some have drawn parallels between the two Belgians. Boonen, however, doesn’t see it.
“I don’t think you can compare him to me,” the former Quick-Step rider said. “He’s a completely different rider. I know in Belgium it’s because he became world champion at a young age and he’s getting a lot of attention.”
The key difference, he continued, is his compatriot’s strength across three-week races.
“I think he has the ability to win the Tour de France, and I’m pretty sure of that,” Boonen said. “I’m not saying he’s going to, but he’s going in the direction of the Grand Tours. The way he raced this year was unbelievable.”
In September, Evenepoel won his first Grand Tour title at the Vuelta a España, taking two stage wins and prevailing by over two minutes in the GC. He then travelled to the World Championships in Wollongong, Australia, where he earned himself the rainbow jersey in the road race, attacking solo with 26km to go.
The 22-year-old has since gotten married and relocated to Alicante, Spain.
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