He was speaking in response to criticism from Eddy Merckx that, despite his progress, there is still a long way to go before Evenepoel can consider himself at the top of the sport.

"Of course he's talented but the road is still long. Sometimes he seems to think he's already made it," said Merckx. "I hope for him he will live up to all the expectation but he'll have to eat a lot of sandwiches first", he added, referencing an old Flemish idiom that implies someone still has work to do.

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Evenepoel, who has secured leadership status at his team Deceuninck-QuickStep for the current season, is a popular character amongst the local Flemish media, though his performances on the road are yet to match those of Merckx's distinguished career.

He won both the time trial and road race junior world title in 2018 as well as the Clasica San Sebastian in his debut season. He also won both the Vuelta a San Juan and the Volta ao Algarve this season but, but clearly recognises that his accolades are still some way short of those collected by Merckx.

"Eddy Merckx has the right to put someone in their place," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "Look at his career, there is nothing to add. But I'm not going to worry about it, I know that I'm doing well. The team is satisfied with what I have done so far. That is the most important. A Grand Tour is important for my development."

Evenepoel has been able to continue training outdoors in Belgium during the coronavirus pandemic, however the reduced calendar for the rest of 2020 has limited his major goals for the remainder of the season.

He will have to wait until 2021 to target the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games and a packed race calendar has resulted in Liège-Bastogne-Liège being held during the opening weekend of the Giro d'Italia.

"I'll miss Liège with a heavy heart but everyone in the team quickly agreed that the Giro was the best choice for me. I want to know what it feels like to race for the overall classification for three weeks, that is important for the years to come.

"Although I also understand that there's a ban on mass events in Belgium until 1 September, to be honest, I think it's quite ridiculous," he said of the Belgian championships possibly being held during the World Championships week.

I am committed to it because the circuit in Anzegem is quite tough and suits me. But to put it on a Tuesday during the World Championships… Perhaps we don't all the details yet and the World Championships will also get a new date.

“I'd be sorry if it is moved Qatar. The route in Switzerland is beautiful, a rare opportunity for climbers or Grand Tour riders, for me it was always one of my big goals. In Qatar, it'd be a billiard surface-like course and that would mean me focusing on the time trial."

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