FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — American Greg LeMond, who won the Tour de France and World Championships by the time he was 25 years old, says cycling is in for some exciting times with riders like Remco Evenepoel and Quinn Simmons emerging.
The three-time Tour de France winner and double Worlds winner, the first one at 22 years old, took note of riders like Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Quinn Simmons (turning professional with Trek-Segafredo), Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), and Egan Bernal (Ineos). The ‘older’ riders should be “a little nervous” with the next wave coming.
“You look at Remco, it’s a really big honor, he could be the next Eddy Merckx. But that’s a lot of pressure, he might be the first Remco, everyone always says the next Eddy Merckx,” LeMond told VeloNews.
“Then you got Egan Bernal from Colombia… These are young, really great riders, and I’m excited. I think it makes the sport very exciting. And it’s probably got a lot of the little older guys, even the guys 26 and 27, a little nervous.
“We have van der Poel, yes, but Remco is 19 years old and we don’t really know [his limit]. He’s been racing for two or three years so we have no clue where his talent ends… Obviously the sport has a lot of room for a lot of good riders, but what’s great is that it’s going to make a competitive sport with a lot of people in the same age.”
LeMond won the 1983 and 1989 World Championships titles and the Tour de France in 1986, 1989, and 1990.
“When I was racing, when I started I had Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon, that was my competition, the best guys for 10 years. And sometimes you have a window where you don’t have that, you can have a window where the competition comes and goes, but the next generation is going to have some stiff competition amongst themselves. It’s exciting I think.”
This year, 25-year-old American Sepp Kuss charged through the mountains working for Primoz Roglic’s eventual Vuelta a España victory. Along the way, the team let him off the leash so he could take a solo summit stage victory.
He is one of the highlights in a list of young American talent with Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma, next year EF Education First) and Quinn Simmons, who won the Junior Worlds road race and signed for team Trek-Segafredo.
“There’s such really good talent in the U.S. We had Tejay van Garderen, which is kind of the past, so you have these young riders who are really top talent but they just haven’t shown themselves at the very highest level,” said LeMond.
“Somebody said, ‘What’s going to happen to American cycling, and where’s the next champions?’ And I think they’re there. I said to him, ‘Every time I think it’s going to die, all of a sudden these young riders emerge.’
“And I think Quinn Simmons is one who is going to be a big talent. I saw his wattage output in racing and his past results, and he’s, he’s smart, he went to Belgium. If you want to do well in the classics then that’s your best place to be in.
“There’s a lot of talent and there’s riders that are still making. I’m really excited that even in the USA, cycling has kind of taken a bigger view of participation. And I think when you think of the mountain bike, high school championships, that’s where the talent’s going to come. That’s the grassroots [effort] that you need to feed. And if you do that right you can have champions coming up in the U.S. on a consistent basis.”
LeMond said the most exciting of the current U.S. crop is 18-year-old Quinn Simmons. He won the Junior Ghent-Wevelgem and then closed the season with the road race title at the junior world championships.
“Only because he was junior world champion and he’s just at that perfect age,” LeMond continued. “I know it seems kind of contrary, but I truly believe that when you have talent, it’s not even 23 years old, it’s there at 19, 20.”