UPDATED: He won the third and final Grand Tour of the year just two weeks ago, and today secured the 2022 Rainbow Jersey – Belgian beast Remco Evenepoel has won the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong.
And in a thrilling last-moment dash for the line, Aussie rider Michael Matthews finished third.
Making his decisive move on the second last ascent of the poorly named Mt Pleasant climb, 22yo Evenepoel rode solo for the final 25 kilometres of the race.
After famously saying before the 2021 World Championships ‘If I am in the right position, I’ll win the world title’, the Belgian ensured he was in that prime position this time around.
Leaving their counter attack way too late – almost admitting defeat 20km before the end – riders including Wout van Aert, Julian Alaphillipe, the Australian team and a swag of others seemed to realise it was Remco’s race.
But in the final kilometre – just as all eyes were on Remco – a chase group emerged in the distance. Two of those riders went on to battle it out for the two remaining podium places, with Christophe Laporte (FRA) finishing second and Michael Matthews third.
‘The Most Beautiful Victory’
Having already won a Grand Tour and a monument in 2022, Evenepoel described the win as his “most beautiful victory of 2022.”
“When you become professional you have two or three really big goals,” he said. “To win a Grand Tour and a World Championship is what everyone wants. I just can’t put enough words together to express how proud I am of my achievements this year,” he continued.
“But you don’t do it alone. If I have to thank everyone who has helped, we’d be here a very long time.”
Discussing the race plan, it went perfectly, Evenepoel said.
“What we did was how we discussed it yesterday and the day before,” he added.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how we raced and how the team raced. To win a Grand Tour and a Monument this year, I thought it would be very difficult to win more.”
“For now I just want to enjoy this jersey,” he concluded.
Fourth Worlds Podium For Bling
Michael Matthews described his third place result as feeling like a win – “especially because the Worlds were raced on home soil,” he added.
“First, thanks to the crowd, they were absolutely awesome,” he said.
“Coming away with third place on home soil feels like a win.”
Thanking the Australian team, ‘Bling’ said Jai (Hindley) particularly helped by going with the penultimate move.
Then veterans Simon Clarke and Heinrich Hausler fought for the team to the end.
“And ultimately Simon and Heino let me get the opportunity to go for the podium with 500 metres to go,” he added.
“We were talking in the peloton, but it was difficult to get information (due to lack of race radios),” he said.
“We kept catching bunches near the end, even though we didn’t know we were sprinting for the top 10,” he continued.
“I went, and followed Laporte, and (at the time) didn’t even know I’d got third,” he continued.
“It was for a podium in the end, which was great!”
His 4th time on the podium at a World Championships, Matthews described this one as “the best, being at home in Australia.”
“The level of cycling at the moment is so high,” Matthews continued, “and this year has been an absolute roller coaster season.”
So what’s next for Michael Matthews? Well not much in the way of rest it seems.
“We are heading back to Italy next week,” he said. “Then to France for races, then Italy again after that. So yes, we have more races before the end of the season.”
In other news, the final event of the Wollongong World Championships was tainted by the news of rival Mathieu van der Poel abandoning the race after last night being arrested due to a disturbance at his hotel.
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