Belgians like to point out: their country is one of the cradles of cycling. On the occasion of the road race for the world championships, which took place on Sunday 26 September in Flanders, they fully honored the national reputation. Thousands of people had gathered along the route, between Antwerp and Louvain, to greet with their cheers, flags and other signs the passage of the peloton.
Nineteen years after the last “home” edition of the event – in Zolder in 2002 – there is no question of missing this meeting, a fortiori with a local child, Wout Van Aert, ultra-favorite of the test.
“I didn’t think I would be able to hold on”
But as the saying goes, no one is a prophet in his country. And, after nearly six hours of racing, the Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, who won solo in Louvain, left the Belgian supporters speechless … Well, almost: « On the last lap, they asked me to slow down and they didn’t have very nice words, I want to thank them, it made me want to press the pedals even more hard ”, he slips with a touch of irony.
After Imola (Italy) in 2020, where he had already showered the hopes of the rider of the Jumbo-Visma, the world champion this time made the hole on the other favorites after an attack in the coast of the Saint-Antoine church seventeen kilometers from the finish.
“I know what it’s like to spend a year in the rainbow jersey. I just wanted to do well and work for the team, confides the person, still a bit incredulous. It wasn’t planned, I didn’t think I would be able to hold out. “
Julian Alaphilippe is the first Frenchman to join the very closed circle of runners who have kept their rainbow tunic. Before him, only six men had achieved this feat: the Slovakian Peter Sagan (2015, 2016, 2017), the Italians Paolo Bettini (2006, 2007) and Gianni Bugno (1991, 1992) and the Belgians Rik Van Looy (1960, 1961). ), Rik Van Steenbergen (1956, 1957) and Georges Ronsse (1928, 1929).
The Dutchman Dylan Van Baarle, second, and the Danish Michael Valgren, third, completed the podium, ahead of the Belgian Jasper Stuyven by a gut, who summed up laconically: “It’s not a great day for us. We were missing something. “
Victory of a collective
Head down, face closed, Wout van Aert finished eleventh, 1 min 18 from the French. “I knew it would be a tough race. It started a lot sooner than I thought. There were good situations to play, but it was in the final circuit that we had to be present. We simply did not manage to follow “, completes the leader of the Belgian selection.
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