Remco Evenepoel has said that he is disappointed by criticism from Eddy Merckx ahead of Belgium's bid for home World Championship road race glory in Flanders.
Merckx accused Evenepoel of riding for himself at Tokyo 2020 rather than for team leader Wout van Aert and suggested he would have excluded the 21-year-old from a strong Belgian team.
The prodigiously talented Evenepoel, who secured a bronze medal in the time trial earlier at the 2021 Road World Championships, has previously been compared to Merckx, and dismissed the Belgian great's criticism, insisting he will throw everything he has to aid van Aert's title tilt.
Tour de France Femmes
‘You have to be realistic’ – Vos under no illusions over keeping yellow jersey
28/07/2022 AT 09:49
"He always has to say something and that's a shame," Evenepoel said Merckx ahead of Sunday 26 September's race start in Antwerp.
"I have a lot of respect for Eddy and apparently that is not mutual. I look up to him and admire him for his record and his achievements.
"I'm not at the start in order to screw over the team. That never entered my mind – I'm just going to do my best."
Evenepoel will likely have a key role to play as Belgian's second fiddle, with the youngster likely set for a role blocking potential attacks.
Merckx had told Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that Evenepoel "rides mainly for himself" after being unimpressed with his Olympics performance.
Van Aert and Evenepoel will be joined on the Belgian team by a formidable unit of some of the peloton's finest classicists, including Milan-San Remo winner Jasper Stuyven and two-time Dwars door Vaaanderen winner Yves Lampaert.

How to win the world road race title, as told by Bradley Wiggins

Evenepoel explained that beyond Tim Declercq, who will in trademark fashion be the team's leading workhorse at the front of the peloton, and van Aert, Belgian are prepared to be flexible over their strategy in support of hot favourite van Aert as they look to take victory over the 267.7km course to the finish in Leuven.
"As for the plan, we don't know anything other than we have a sole leader. Apart from Tim Declercq, nobody knows his real role. The ideal scenario is that we go to Leuven with a small group and one or two guys who can counter moves. However, it's still a 270-kilometre race with hills and wind.
"I'm here to work for Belgium, for Wout, because I know that it's the chance of his life to be world champion. He's in the form of his life, and it would be stupid of me to ride for myself.
"On this parcours, no one is stronger than Wout. I said already a lot of times that I will do everything for Wout."
Evenepoel took silver at the European Championships in Trento two weekends ago after Sonny Colbrelli of Italy out-kicked him to the line.
Tour de France
'I hear what people say about me' - Laporte frustrated at doping questions
27/07/2022 AT 10:29
Tour de France
Daredevil descending and THAT handshake – 13 best moments of the Tour
25/07/2022 AT 19:05