Imagine if you’re Jeff Bezos or Jack Ma, you’re loaded, and you’re a bike geek.
And instead of buying yachts or penthouse suites, you instead want to spend part of your financial largesse on an elite men’s WorldTour team.
And you’re the lucky person selected to run cycling’s new mega-team.
Price and money are no object — professional cycling could use a few more of these deep-pocketed benefactors right now — so who would you sign if you were the team manager of a team budget with no limit?
What rider, from your imaginary view of the world’s billionaires club, packs more punch, more winning potential, and who better captures the imagination of the wider public?
Who would you pick as your center and face of your imaginary cycling franchise? Since it’s all monopoly money, we dive in:
- Evenepoel vs Pogačar: Who won what, who won more in 2022
- How big was Evenepoel’s rainbow romp? He joins elite company with rare worlds treble
Andrew Hood: Remco Evenepoel
AH: If I received a blank check from some tech mogul or crypto-chiseler, I’d put a target on Remco Evenepoel, and give him everything he wants.
No rider is as ambitious, focused, or charismatic as the pint-sized Belgium brawler who swings way above his weight.
Sure, the likes of Tadej Pogačar, Mathieu van der Poel, and Wout van Aert all pack more brawn and out-sized palmarès, but it’s Evenepoel who has that something special that sets him apart from the crowd.
Just like the stock market, it’s all about buying the future.
It’s that rare mix of pure ambition coupled with natural DNA-wired skills swirled up with a pure ease with the public that positions Evenepoel as cycling’s next big superstar.
And if I was writing the checks, I’d do everything I could to see him reach even higher.
Part of being a franchise rider is not only what they bring to the race, but it’s also the before and after that count as well. Van der Poel openly dislikes the circus that follows his exploits, while Pogačar is like the Teflon patron, who shakes off pressure like a spring shower, but his small-market Slovenian home base limits his reach. Van Aert is a man for all seasons, but he still needs to win a “big one.”
There’s no question that all of today’s superstars bring it on the bike, but it’s only Evenepoel who truly packs the drama and gravity to cycling that could see emerge as a rider who can reach beyond the sport.
Evenepoel trained as a footballer before turning to cycling, and he brings a certain bravado and emotion that evokes something bigger than solitary suffering on the bike.
His Belgian pedigree is a plus, and his nation’s cycling history packs an extra layer of aura to build a franchise for the future.
Evenepoel’s ambition knows no bounds, and an open checkbook would give him all the riders, science, coaching, and support he would need to take on the Tour de France.
What rider will have the most impact going forward? If he keeps his head screwed on straight, it’s Evenepoel. Name your price.
Jim: Pogo-mania for me
JC: Choosing between Pogačar and Evenepoel is one of the most delicious dilemmas any hypothetical team manager could be faced with.
They’re similar ages, have both been in the WorldTour for four years, and along with Wout van Aert, are possibly the biggest ballers in the peloton.
But if I had to choose, Pogačar gets my money.
Two Tour de France titles, and victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and two times at Il Lombardia says it all.
Sure, one rider winning both grand tours and monuments isn’t new now Evenepoel is around, but Pogačar has proven he can win a range of the biggest races in the world again and again … and again.
The Slovenian claimed a grand tour or marquee classic every year since 2020 and doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down any time soon.
Pogačar’s cannibalesque hunger is grumbling harder than ever going into 2023, and he’s already talking Tour revenge, world title ambition, and a terrain-stretching victory at Tour of Flanders.
Pogačar has been ruthlessly consistent in harvesting huge victories since his rookie season in 2019 and brings almost guaranteed bang for a manager’s buck going into the future. He ensures a pipleline of headline-grabbing, UCI point-scoring success in a way that no other rider – not even Evenepoel – can match at this point in time.
Evenepoel was most probably the star of 2022 with his Liège-Vuelta-worlds triplet, but he’s yet to prove if he can repeat such stellar feats in the way that Pogačar has so far.
And time is yet to tell how Evenepoel’s new-found fame – which now stretches far beyond Belgian shores – will impact the 22-year-old. Can he handle the hype of the rainbow bands and the VIP status as a new superstar or the sport? The wunderkind may require the type of time-sapping nurture a more known quantity like Pogačar no longer needs.
Contrastingly, Pogačar settled into the cycling spotlight with ease. Heck, doesn’t even notice it shining direct into his eyes any more.
It’s a tough decision, but … Tadej, Tadej, take my money.