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Evenepoel should ride cyclo-cross, says De Vlaeminck

Evenepoel training on the Muur van Geraardsbergen in May 2020
Evenepoel training on the Muur van Geraardsbergen in May 2020 (Image credit: Wout Beel / Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Roger De Vlaeminck believes Remco Evenepoel needs to race cyclo-cross in the winter, while also suggesting Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert should have started racing on the road earlier in their careers. 

De Vlaeminck, 72, raced cyclo-cross throughout a career that featured four Paris-Roubaix titles among a complete set of all five Monuments. 

Referring to the impact made on the road by Van der Poel and Van Aert, both multiple former cyclo-cross world champions, he urged 20-year-old Belgian sensation Evenepoel, who has already made waves on the road, to follow suit. 

"Remco Evenepoel, who is now being praised everywhere, is a good one, as you can see. If he wants to move forward, he best become a cyclo-cross rider," De Vlaeminck said in an interview with Belgian magazine Knack.

"Crossers are much more skilful. I never crashed in my entire career, and that was learned in cyclo-cross. The champions of the past knew all that. There is no better way to get through winter. ”

"Every road cyclist should ride at least five or six cyclo-cross races, preferably the heavy, real 'crosses, such as Zonhoven or Overijse - perfect for opening the lungs."

Evenepoel moved straight from the juniors to the WorldTour in 2019 and won the elite European time trial title along with the Clásica San Sebastián. This year he has already won the Vuelta a San Juan and Volta ao Algarve, and is gearing up for a Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia in October.

"Whether Evenepoel will win the Giro? I wait until I see him in a difficult stage race," De Vlaeminck said. "In time trial he beats the best, but does he handle the mountains?

"Evenepoel is certainly not too young to win. It never depends on that - remember that. You have to be good - it's that simple. You have to be Messi, but on a bicycle."

De Vlaeminck again made reference to Lionel Messi, widely considered the best footballer in the world, when talking about Van der Poel and Van Aert. 

Both started out in cyclo-cross and delayed their debut full campaigns on the road, with Van Aert first riding a full spring classics schedule in 2018 at the age of 23 and Van der Poel following on in 2019 at 24. Van der Poel has already won Amstel Gold Race and Dwars door Vlaanderen, while Van Aert has podiums at Strade Bianche and E3, plus a top-10 at Milan-San Remo. 

"If they had switched to the road when they were 21, they would have won three Classics each by now. But it was too early, so to speak. Lionel Messi was 17 when he made his Barcelona debut. It is never too early if you are good - never," said De Vlaeminck.

"I was 21 when I won the Omloop Het Volk. I would have won at the age of 19, but you were too young to start with the pros at the time. But Van Aert and Van der Poel have to wait until they are 24 before they are strong enough to even ride those races? If only they had called me. I would like to have explained that to them. But yes, they don't need that. They all know better. They can make their own mistakes."