Worlds Race Report: An unbelievable day of racing was finished off by last year’s World champion, France’s Julian Alaphilippe to double up and take the rainbow jersey for the second year in a row. Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands) was second and Michael Valgren (Denmark) third. Belgium zero.
Alaphilippe – World champion again
Julian Alaphilippe is the World champion for the second year in a row. After an extremely entertaining and tough road race of 268.3 kilometres through a race-crazy Flanders, the Frenchman crossed the line solo in Leuven. The Frenchman placed his decisive move on the penultimate lap in Leuven.
From the start in Antwerp’s Grote Markt, there is a short neutralised section before the official start just outside the centre of Antwerp. A long flat run-up of 55 kilometres towards the first time in Leuven. Once in Leuven, the riders will complete a first of a total of two local circuits. This is followed by a first acquaintance with the Leuven circuit. The local circuit is 15.5 kilometres long and criss-crosses through Leuven. The circuit in the student city of Leuven has four climbs, with the Sint-Antoniusberg (230 metres at 5.5%, maximum 11%), Keizersberg (290 metres at 6.6%, maximum 9%), Decouxlaan (975 metres at 2.5%, maximum 6%) and the Wijnpers (360 metres at 7.9%, maximum 9%). After one and a half times of the Leuven circuit, the riders cross over to the second circuit.
From the Leuven circuit it goes to the Flandrien circuit in and around Overijse. 32 kilometres and a succession of six short and sharp climbs. With the Smeysberg (700 metres at 8.8%, maximum 16%), the cobbled Moskesstraat (550 metres at 8%, maximum 16%), the S-curve in the centre of Overijse (738 metres at 5.5 %, maximum 18.3%) in combination with Taymansstraat, the steep and narrow Bekestraat (439 metres at 7.7%, maximum 15%), Veeweidestraat (484 metres at 5.2%, maximum 12%) and a second pass of the Smeysberg. After a first passage on the Flandrien circuit, the riders will return to Leuven for four laps on the Leuven circuit. Then it goes for a second and last time to Overijse to finish the Flandrien circuit one more time, with passages over the Smeysberg and Moskesstraat. The riders will then be just under 40 kilometres from the finish. With another 2.5 laps over the Leuven circuit. One last time over the Keizersberg, Decouxlaan, Wijnpers and Sint-Antoniusberg. Added up we have 42 slopes and 2,562 metres of climbing.
The top of the last ramp of the day, the Sint-Antoniusberg (a narrow climb on cobbles), is just 1.7 kilometres from the finish. This can serve as a final stepping stone to the win. If, after more than 260 kilometres and 42 slopes, we still get a sprint with a – large or not – group, it is important to time it well. After a short descent from the Naamsestraat, the finish is on the slightly uphill Geldenaaksevest, good positioning is crucial.
The start podium in the Grote Markt
Antwerp start line
A big festival, that is what the World championships in Flanders will be remembered as. In Antwerp, Leuven, Overijse and all places in between, the public stood in their thousands, especially on the circuits. A joy for the riders, the fans and the viewers. There was the usual early break: Patrick Gamper (Austria), Pavel Kochetkov (Russia), Rory Townsend (Ireland), Oskar Nisu (Estonia), Kim Magnusson (Sweden), José Tito Hernández (Colombia), Joel Levi Burbano (Ecuador) and Jambal Sainbayar (Mongolia). They had a maximum lead of 6 minutes.
Neutralised out of town
The start of the early break
Belgium controlled the race and countered the early attacks. At 180 kilometres from the finish there was a first move by Benoît Cosnefroy, Magnus Cort and Remco Evenepoel. It was the start of an exciting and long final. Pascal Eenkhoorn, Tim Declercq, Primoz Roglic, Jan Tratnik, Arnaud Démare, Kasper Asgreen, Ben Swift, Brandon McNulty, Stefan Bissegger, Imanol Erviti, Nathan Haas and Markus Hoelgaard joined the Evenepoel group. In the peloton, Belgium paralysed the chase, but Italy and Poland took over. The gap was already 1 minute by then.
De Clerq leading the peloton through Mechelen
The fans were out in their thousands
The cooperation in the Evenepoel group was not great, so the Italians managed to make the connection with 133 kilometres to go. Not much later, the early escape was also taken caught. Mathieu van der Poel was behind the break in the peloton at the Wijnpers, but Bauke Mollema brought the Dutch leader back. The high pace – especially from the Belgians – caused a battle of and some chaos: Mikkel Honoré and John Degenkolb crashed after Davide Ballerini, Matteo Trentin and Mads Pedersen had already hit the deck earlier in the race.
Bad crash for Trentin and Ballerini
Unbelievable amount of fans
For many of the sprinters it was already too fast more than 100 kilometres from the finish. Caleb Ewan was able to hold on for a fairly long time, but stopped with cramp at 75 kilometres out. Another attack attempt was initiated by Nils Politt and followed by Evenepoel, Tratnik, Dylan van Baarle, Andrea Bagioli, Valentin Madouas, Mads Würtz Schmidt, Iván García, Robert Stannard, Rasmus Tiller and Neilson Powless. The last time on Moskesstraat the race ignited: Van Baarle, Evenepoel, Madouas, Bagioli and Powless remained and behind them the favourites started to show themselves.
A chase group that included Evenepoel and Roglič
Eventually the race came back together, but it was only at the halfway point
On the Bekestraat, Julian Alaphilippe made an attack, creating an elite group that managed to join the leading group. In addition to the (ex) World champion, Madouas, Florian Sénéchal, Evenepoel, Jasper Stuyven, Wout van Aert, Matej Mohoric, Bagioli, Sonny Colbrelli, Giacomo Nizzolo, Tom Pidcock, Van Baarle, Van der Poel, Valgren, Markus Hoelgaard, Powless and Zdenek Stybar were present.
Asgreen was very active
Belgium took control with 100 kilometres to go
A new attack by Alaphilippe and Colbrelli on the Smeysberg was countered by the Belgians. Up front, it was mainly Evenepoel and Bagioli who set the pace. Partly because of this, the chasing group didn’t get any closer; at the end of the last two laps of the Leuven Circuit, the difference was already almost 2 minutes.
Van der Poel was very quiet, not 100% or waiting?
Colbrelli was also invisible
At 26 kilometres from the finish, Evenepoel’s work was over. He had ridden himself completely to a standstill in the service of Van Aert of his leader. At the penultimate Wijnpers climb, Alaphilippe put in a big jump to which Van Aert was unable to react immediately. Yet the group came back together through the work of Stuyven. A very strong Alaphilippe put in another attack on the St. Antoniusberg, and immediately got a gap.
The Remco Evenepoel fans were out
The peloton through Leuven
Behind the Frenchman it was Powless, Stuyven, Van Baarle and Valgren who got together. They had ridden away from the group with Van Aert and Van der Poel, where Italy had taken the lead. At the penultimate passage of the finish, the difference was 12 seconds between Alaphilippe and the Stuyven group, while Van Aert and co were half a minute down.
The decision was made
The winning attack
The chase did not get off to a good start, so the difference from 11 seconds grew to 30. There was no catching Alaphilippe, who started the last kilometre with the 30 seconds lead. ‘JuJu’ had plenty of time to celebrate his second World title in a row.
Alaphilippe wasn’t going to give up
It wasn’t too far to the finish… Just
The sprint for second place was surprisingly won by Van Baarle, taking the first World championships medal for Elite men for the Netherlands since 1997. Van Baarle was ahead of Valgren (bronze) and Stuyven out of the medals.
It wasn’t to be Wout or Mathieu’s day
Solo to victory for Alaphilippe
In the final lap Tom Pidcock rode away from the elite group of Van Aert and Van der Poel. He crossed the finish line in 6th place. The sprint for eighth place was won by Mathieu van der Poel. Top favourite Wout van Aert was a disappointed eleventh.
The sprint for second went to Van Baarle ahead of Valgren
Alaphilippe and Marion Rousse
2021 World champion, Julian Alaphilippe (France): “I knew what to do. It was a very difficult day. It was really broken. Everything burns in my legs and head. The course suited me. I knew what to do. When I got up this morning I didn’t think I would become World champion again. But I know what this jersey does to you.”
That jersey for another year
World Championships Men’s Road Race Result:
1. Julian Alaphilippe (France) in 5:56:34
2. Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands) at 0:32
3. Michael Valgren (Denmark)
4. Jasper Stuyven (Belgium)
5. Neilson Powless (United States)
6. Thomas Pidcock (Great Britain) at 0:49
7. Zdeněk Štybar (Czech Republic) at 1:06
8. Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) at 1:18
9. Florian Sénéchal (France)
10. Sonny Colbrelli (Italy)
11. Wout van Aert (Belgium)
12. Markus Hoelgaard (Norway)
13. Valentin Madouas (France)
14. Matej Mohoric (Slovenia) at 4:00
15. Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) at 4:05
16. Nils Politt (Germany) at 5:25
17. Guillaume Boivin (Canada)
18. Jan Polanc (Slovenia)
19. Benoit Cosnefroy (France) at 5:30
20. Victor Campenaerts (Belgium)
21. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) at 6:27
22. Mike Teunissen (Netherlands)
23. Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spain)
24. Diego Ulissi (Italy)
25. Michael Matthews (Australia)
26. Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
27. Dylan Teuns (Belgium)
28. Sebastian Schoenberger (Austria)
29. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)
30. Luka Mezgec (Slovenia).