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Remco Evenepoel leads Romain Bardet during their stage 14 breakaway at last year’s Vuelta, when Bardet says Evenepoel rode him into the ground (Photo: Tommaso Pelagalli-Sprint Cycling Agency)

Remco Evenepoel is, without question, one of the heavyweights of the pro peloton but the young Belgian has had a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way, at times.

But now French legend Romain Bardet has said he’s noted a change in Evenepoel and says the world TT champion is now liked and respected throughout the whole peloton.

Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL) and Evenepoel (Soudal QuickStep) appear to have forged a bond during last year’s Vuelta, when they rode a two-up breakaway on stage 14 to Larra-Belagua.

Evenepoel simply rode Bardet into the ground, to win from him by over one minute, with the Frenchman now saying the gap in their abilities that day was stark.

“I know Remco, he is an attacker à la Eddy Merckx. He goes very far. He did eighty percent of the work.” Bardet told of that Vuelta breakaway day when he was 2nd to his rival.

“It was terrible in his wheel and I gave up. I got cramps and was completely drained. And while I really had a good day. However, he was much better than me. I really appreciate Remco. We talked a lot and agreed to just ride until the finish.”

In honest and open remarks, Bardet also admitted he was unsure about Evenepoel and whether he could continue his incredible run from the junior ranks, and also about his arrogance levels when he first turned pro.

“To be honest, I was one of the first to have doubts about him,” Bardet said. “I first heard of Evenepoel when I spoke to Julian Alaphilippe. He told me that a junior was coming who would win everything and I was like ‘okay, that’s with the juniors, I’ll just have to see that in the World Tour’.

“Then I saw him win in Clasica San Sebastian in 2019, that was really bam. At that moment, I thought: okay, we’ve got someone here . But Remco has also changed, the arrogance he radiated then is no longer there. He is a very respected rider, by everyone.

“We have a very good relationship. We keep in good contact, even during the winter break. I think he’s a really cool guy and I support him, because he has something special.

“All Grand Tour winners have that, but with him it feels different… The path he has taken in his life and career… it has not been a steady line, but he still has the aura of someone very special. He can afford himself bad days, even that…”

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