Wollongong 2022: Evenepoel’s dominating performance sees him become youngest world champion in 29 years


On Sunday in Wollongong, Remco Evenepoel became the youngest world champion in 29 years and the first rider to win a monument, a grand tour and the world road race since Bernard Hinault in 1980.

The 22-year-old did it first by bringing his teammates into the breakaway, then slipping out of the peloton to join them in the final third of the race, before attacking himself. with exactly two laps to go.

He traveled about ten kilometers with Alexey Lutsenko, but alone on the penultimate ascent of Mount Keira.

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An unparalleled effort did the damage for the next 20 kilometres. Over a minute late, on the final lap of the 17km circuit, the remaining chasers were forced to fight for the remaining medals.

Evenepoel didn’t let go, looking for the most dominant World Championship win many have seen. He crossed the line on the verge of tears, raising his finger to his lips to suggest silence from critics.

As the world watched Evenepoel’s performance, a group of insurgents from the peloton were able to review the remnants of the breakaway. Christophe Laporte of France won the sprint for second place, with Australia’s Michael Matthews taking the bronze medal.

Highlights: All the action of a spectacular men’s road race as Evenepoel wins the title

Last-minute preparations for the race had been overshadowed by reports that Mathieu van der Poel had been arrested and charged with common assault on Saturday night following an incident at his hotel. Although Van der Poel started the race, the Dutch favorite retired after less than an hour in the saddle.

Under crystal clear skies in New South Wales – a world away from the gloom experienced by runners on Saturday – the race kicked off at a blistering pace, with attacks at full speed. A number of big nations, including Poland, Slovenia and Switzerland, were represented by the first 11-man main move, while others, such as Belgium, Great Britain and Spain, stood out with their absence.

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Rien Schuurhuis (Vatican) was one of those who missed it and despite trying to take a lift forward was dropped by a late group trying to connect.

Over the 7.5 km, 5.7% of Mount Keira and the leading runners had a lead of almost four minutes with a small group of pursuers two minutes further.

The climb itself caused splits in the peloton, with a large group including Tadej Pogacar and Roman Bardet clear cut, forcing the Belgians, and even Wout van Aert, into action.

By the time the race arrived at the main city circuit, the day’s break had set in. It was made up of sixteen runners with varying contributions to make to the final result:

Pavel Sivakov (France), Pieter Serry (Belgium), Jaka Primozic (Slovenia), Ben O’Connor (Australia), Luke Plapp (Australia), Samuele Battistella (Italy), Simon Pellaud, (Switzerland), Scott McGill (USA) , Pier-André Cote (Canada), James Fouche (New Zealand), Łukasz Owsian (Poland), Michael Kukrle (Czechia), Emīls Liepins (Latvia), Juraj Sagan (Slovakia), Guy Sagiv (Israel), Nícolas Sessler ( Brazil).

Their lead would exceed 80km in the stage in a very smooth eight minutes. An hour and a half later he had lost two, dropping to five with a hundred miles of racing, and coming back down even faster from there.

With 5 laps to go, the peloton is less than three minutes behind.

As they advanced through the 100km, the peloton, led notably by France, really started to put their foot down as the strongest riders in the break did the same. Ben O’Connor was determined to thin out the lead group and he was the main person who orchestrated its split into two groups of similar size.

‘No time to waste!’ – Evenepoel explains attack with two more laps to go

The closing front of the race also inspired attacks and, effectively, a split in the peloton. There were three laps to go and several important riders, such as Nairo Quintana (Colombia), Jai Hindley (Australia) and Jake Stewart (Great Britain) found themselves 35 seconds ahead of the bigger field. The biggest name of all was that of Remco Evenepoel, flying on the road and with three Belgian teammates at his disposal.

In less than 10 km, they had arrived at the head of the race, forming a supergroup of three dozen people more than a minute from the good and winning.

Such a large group could not be sustained, and attacks from it kept coming, meant to drop the passengers and whittle them down to a smaller, more effective selection.

Across the finish line for third since last time and Germany, one of the few teams without road representation, were the ones doing the work in the peloton, determined to keep the race from fading away .

When Great Britain and France came out on top at Mount Pleasant, the pace increased so much that the leaders’ two-minute advantage was almost halved in one fell swoop.

Sensing something was going on behind, Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) slipped away from the circuit breakers, the effect being more to increase the overall gap to the peloton.

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As they crossed the finish line with two laps to go, Remco himself decided it was time to go rainbow chasing, quickly closing in on Lutsenko and taking the lead.

Lutsenko proved a useful ally for the Belgian, allowing him to gain a thirty second advantage over anyone else and increase the gap to the peloton to over two minutes, but during the he penultimate ascent of Mount Pleasant Evenepoel simply knocked him off his wheel.

On the downhill and with 23km to go, it looked like there was only a fight for the podium places left, with the peloton one minute away from the silver medal.

At the sound of the bell, it seemed like they had given up. Evenepoel was in time trial mode and on his way to the world title, at least the equal of his victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April and the Vuelta title a few weeks earlier.

“It’s something I dreamed of,” Evenepoel said afterwards. “I think I will never have a better season than this.”

On his reluctance to give up even after victory was assured, Evenepoel said: “I kept pushing because it’s the world championship and you don’t want to waste time, you just want to win the jersey.”

2’21 later, a group of 27 riders crossed the line, with Frenchman Christophe Laporte sprinting to silver and Michael Matthews taking bronze.

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Stream the 2022 cycling season live and on demand on discovery+. You can also follow all the action live at eurosport.co.uk.

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