Remco Evenepoel today soloed his way to an emphatic victory in the Elite Men Road Race at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, just a fortnight after taking a dominant maiden Grand Tour win at the Vuelta a Espana.
France’s Christophe Laporte won the sprint for silver at the end of the 266.9km race from Helensburgh, with the host nation Australia’s biggest hope, Michael Matthews, taking bronze, the pair crossing the line 2 minutes 21 seconds behind the new world champion in a small group including Ethan Hayter, the first British rider home, who finished ninth.
There had been drama early on with the abandonment after 35km of one of the big pre-race favourites, Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands, who attended a police station earlier this morning and was charged with assault relating to an incident at his hotel overnight.
A year ago on home soil in Leuven, Evenepoel and fellow Belgian Wout van Aert, who finished fourth today, came under heavy criticism at home after the team failed to work together and missed out on a podium place, as France’s Julian Alaphilippe retained the title he had won in Imola 12 months earlier.
With around 60km to go, the French team upped the pace at the front of the main field, causing it to split, with Evenepoel among the riders on the right side of it, the group swiftly catching up with the day’s escapees.
The group of more than 20 riders had built a lead of around 2 minutes on the main bunch with 50km to go, but that was swiftly halved as the chasing group increased its pace, perhaps prompting Evenepoel’s decision to attack, and when he went, only Alexey Lutsenko of Kazakhstan was able to go with him.
The pair – both previous winners of the under-23 title – worked together to stretch out a lead over their pursuers, but with 25km remaining Evenepoel pushed again, and this time Lutsenko was unable to stay with the Belgian, who rode away to take the most dominant victory seen in the men’s race for many a year.
Lutsenko tried to hold on for silver, but was caught by a small chasing group of four riders around 4 kilometres from home, the quintet looking set to contest the silver and bronze medals until they themselves were swallowed up by the remnants of the main group, containing several of the riders who had been expected to contest the win, with the line in sight.
Followingh his victory, Evenepoel, who besides the Vuelta also claimed victory in a Monument this year, winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege, said: "It's something I've been dreaming of and now after a monument, a big classic, a Grand Tour and now world champion, I think I've won everything I could this year.
"I don't think I will ever have a better season than this. I'm not going to see my bed tonight."
He continued: "I felt quite quickly that I was stronger than Alexey and I wanted to go alone because there's no time to waste on a circuit like this.
"The last climb was super hard and my legs exploded but it's the world championship, you just want to win the jersey."
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.