Eddy Merckx: Remco Evenepoel really is something special

Cycling legend full of praise for double junior world champion

"Don't call me the next Eddy Merckx," Belgium's Remco Evenepoel had told reporters after winning Tuesday's junior men's time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. But then he went and also won the junior road race two days later, which even Eddy himself described as "incredible".

That was the word Merckx used to describe his young compatriot's performance on Thursday, according to Het Laatste Nieuws, and Belgium must now think they have a true superstar of the future on their hands.

"Maybe he'll be better than me," Merckx told the Belgian newspaper. "It seems as though that boy can do anything. Look at him: he can time trial, and he overtakes everyone on the climbs. It's great to see."

Evenepoel, 18, has won almost every race he's entered this season, from the junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne back in February to the overall classification at the Giro della Lunigiana earlier this month, via the junior and under-23 European Championship road race and time trial, and the junior Belgian Championship road race.

When asked to compare his younger self to Evenepoel, Merckx demonstrated that his own competitive fire still burns brightly, albeit with a twinkle in his eye.

"Maybe I could have done something on this course," he said, referring to the hilly nature of these World Championships' hilly parcours.

"Don't forget, I was also world champion when I was 19," continued Merckx, who won the 1964 amateur Worlds road race, which no longer exists, but was effectively today's U23 road race.

"But this lad really is something special, that's for sure."

Asked what advice he might be able to offer Evenepoel – who will join the senior ranks with the WorldTour-level Quick-Step Floors outfit on a two-year contract from next season, bypassing the under-23 ranks entirely – Merckx was left scratching his head, such is the young Belgian's talent.

"What else could I teach him? Nothing. He can do it all," he said. "He knows what's he's doing; he's already grown up. If I had to tell him something, it would be to stay calm. He's set to turn professional soon, but if anyone can make it at the highest level, he can."

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