The two young riders had yet to tangle head-to-head, but after a disastrous stage 6 in which the Belgian rider who previously had been tipped as the next Eddie Merckx ceded more than four minutes to the eventual winner Pogačar, Evenepoel’s team boss admitted that the “Wolfpack” rider was not the heir apparent to the Belgian cycling throne.
“The fact is: anyone who made him ‘the new Merckx’ was grossly mistaken. Not him, but Tadej Pogačar is ‘the new Merckx’. That’s clear now, I think,” Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws.
Even Evenepoel admitted he was underpowered for the climbing in the penultimate stage.
“It wasn’t the drama like I had in the Giro last year, I could still keep my rhythm. But to race for the victory I needed 30 or 40 watts more on the climbs. On a day where you’re not 100 percent, you can’t just push through that,” he said.
This came after a promising opening time trial, and several days wearing the white jersey leading the best young rider competition, with the world champion Julian Alaphilppe acting as domestique for him.
His Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl boss offered a bit of candid analysis, in which he boasted that Evenepoel’s true forté has yet to be on display and that fans and the media should be patient in putting expectations on the 22-year-old.
“Whether there is a strong classic one-day racer in him, rather than a grand tour rider? That should become apparent very soon. But what if he’s [successful] at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège? What are they going to make of it then?” said Lefevere. “Because of the lightning-fast breakthroughs of some other young talents — they aren’t all Bernals or Pogačars. Let us explore further and discover where we can get with Remco. We have patience. Hopefully, you, too.”