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The Belgian ace slipped into the crucial split in the middle of the race before riding Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) off his wheel at 25km to go to score Belgium its first world title since 2012.
The rest of the race’s top favorites like double defending champion Julian Alaphilippe (France), Wout van Aert (Belgium), Michael Matthews (Australia) and Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) were caught out early in the race.
The bunch of five-star favorites missed the split before chasing back in the closing kilometers to sprint for podium positons.
Christophe Laporte (France) won the sprint for second, 2:21 back, while Matthews punched into third, denying Belgium a one-three as Van Aert finished fourth.
The rainbow jersey caps off a phenomenal season for Evenepoel after victories with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl at Liège-Bast0gne-Liège, Donostia San Sebastian, and the Vuelta a España. The 22-year-old is the first rider to win a world title and grand tour since Greg LeMond did the double in 1989.
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming of. After a monument, a big classic a grand tour, and a world championship, I think I won everything I could have this year. I think I will never have another season like this,” he said. “It will be a big party tonight, I’m not going to see my bed I guess.”
Evenepoel’s final 25km solo TT closed the circle after he did similar when he stunned the bunch with his ride to victory in the junior worlds in 2018.
Evenepoel was surrounded by Belgian teammates at the finish. Co-captain Van Aert was one of the first to congratulate his compatriot as he became first Belgian world champion since Philippe Gilbert.
“I think how we raced today really like a team. Like I said before, we wanted to become a world champion as a team, it didn’t matter how,” Evenepoel said. “It was Wout’s chance or my chance, it was my chance to go from early and Wout was to follow along and sprint. I guess the early attack mde it today. But I just think we deserve it. We really deserve it.”
Drama for Van der Poel
There was drama before the race even rolled out this morning.
News broke Mathieu van der Poel was arrested and held by police until 4am Sunday after a hotel room altercation with two teenagers. The Dutchman started the race just a few hours later, but abandoned after around 40km.
Unlike the slow grind attrition of most road worlds, the first 100km of Sunday’s championships was flat-out.
An early break of 11 got away early before a strong chase of five – including French star Pavel Sivakov, Belgian domestiques Pieter Serry and Aussie duo Luke Plapp and Ben O’Connor – got across to make 16 up the road.
France, Spain and some solo antics by Pogačar squeezed the pressure in the peloton over the early Kiera climb. The forced saw a large split in the bunch that came back together as the race started working through the 12 punchy crit-style Wollongong circuits.
Evenepoel in action
The race went into a slow burn before kicking back to life in the final 80km.
France started to turn the screw, and the bunch again broke into two. Evenepoel and two Belgians, Bardet and two from France, two Brits, and Neilson Powless (USA), were among the dangerous 20-rider split that took one minute over the rest.
The lead group latched onto the breakaway at 60km to go and rolled almost two minutes ahead.
Evenepoel began showing his intentions early. The Belgian cop-captain was eager with a series of accelerations before reeling himself back as the Swiss took control of the front group.
The peloton started to move at 40km to go. Pogačar and Valentin Madouas (France) sparked the action on the Mount Pleasaant climb and just it kicked off in the led group just minutes later.
Lutsenko attacked out of the group at 40km to go before Evenepoel dived across and the two rode tandem at the front of the race.
Four riders – Pascal Eenkhoorn (Netherlands), Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Denmark), Lorenzo Rota (Italy) and Mauro Schmid (Switzerland) – chased but looked unlikely to ever make the catch as Evenepoel towed the leading twosome clear.
Evenepoel had been relentless all day long and didn’t stop as the race went deep into its final. The 22-year-old rode Lutsenko off the wheel on the circuit’s kicker climb at 25k to go and settled into his typical time trial style.
The group of favorites of Van Aert, Pogačar, Alaphilippe and co. was two minutes off the pace and the race looked lost. Van Aert tried to make the difference but the gap was too big.
Once Evenepoel escaped, there was no bringing him back. The 22-year-old galloped away from Lutsenko who dug deep to hold off the four-rider chase.
Lutsenko faded and was caught by Skjelmose Jensen, Rota and Schmid in the final 4km before the peloton rampaged back into the frame and sprinted for the podium slots, with Laporte squeezing past Matthews to score a consolation second-place for France.
World Championships ME - Road Race Results
|4||VAN AERT Wout||Belgium||2:21|
|9||HAYTER Ethan||Great Britain||2:21|
|11||GARCÍA CORTINA Iván||Spain||2:21|
|14||TULETT Ben||Great Britain||2:21|
|15||HONORÉ Mikkel Frølich||Denmark||2:21|
|18||POWLESS Neilson||United States||2:21|
|27||VAN BAARLE Dylan||Netherlands||2:21|
|37||BYSTRØM Sven Erik||Norway||3:01|
|42||ŠTYBAR Zdeněk||Czech Republic||3:01|
|43||VAN HOOYDONCK Nathan||Belgium||3:01|
|53||WRIGHT Fred||Great Britain||3:08|
|59||KUKRLE Michael||Czech Republic||4:50|
|73||SWENSON Keegan||United States||6:20|
|74||IMPEY Daryl||South Africa||6:20|
|78||SHEFFIELD Magnus||United States||6:20|
|79||SWIFT Ben||Great Britain||6:20|
|86||MCGILL Scott||United States||10:23|
|93||PEÑA Wilson Estiben||Colombia||11:28|
|100||TURNER Ben||Great Britain||11:40|
|102||STEWART Jake||Great Britain||15:05|
|103||SWIFT Connor||Great Britain||15:05|
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.