Wout van Aert was taking a big spotlight at the World Championships, being a prime favourite. Belgium however had more weapons, and Remco Evenepoel managed to benefit from strong legs and tactics to take the World title.
"Of course I am happy with this title. It has been a fantastic race. You can determine the tactics in advance, but if it also works out that way awesome," van Aert told Sporza at the end of the race. "When Remco moved with that group, I knew it was dangerous, but it was just a good situation for the team.” Evenepoel was joined by Quinten Hermans, Pieter Serry and Stan Dewulf in the winning move, giving van Aert the opportunity to race without the pressure that often sees him being swarmed by rivals.
“By the way, also for me personally. I was sitting in a seat in the peloton. But when we entered the last lap we heard that Remco was alone in front. When the alarm bells went off and he kept the same lead, you knew he had another super day. And then the strongest wins," he added.
Van Aert had strong legs however, as he's shown by attacking the climb to Mount Pleasant on the penultimate climb, in an attempt to overturn the constant lack of cohesion that saw the peloton lose minutes to the winning group. Eventually however, most of the sprinters were not dropped from the peloton, and van Aert sprinted to fourth place at the end of the day.
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“It was discussed that I had that freedom, if Remco was allowed to ride in front in a large group. That was the tactic. But then of course I didn't know that Remco was already riding alone. I only learned that at the passage at the finish," he reveals. "The last time I made another move, but then the race was of course finished.”
“A lot of guys had their race tuned to me. Remco has also given that space. It's great that it turned out this way and that I was able to contribute. In the future we can do great things with this Belgian team," he continues, arguing that even though Evenepoel was racing towards the win, several riders were still keen on marking out van Aert.
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Like Christophe Laporte and Michael Matthews however, it was unknown to van Aert what position he was racing for. That seemed to have influenced the finale, with chaos and confusion apparent and team tactics often seemingly without a clear purpose. “Racing without earphones, that's a drama. And no longer of this time.
"I didn't know at the finish whether I was sprinting for 2nd, 10th or 15th place. I was shocked when Laporte told me he had taken silver. Quite a shame, because I think I had the legs to be on the podium," he concluded.