Wout van Aert has said returning from Imola 2020 with two silver medals “hits hard”, the Belgian disappointed he couldn’t convert either of them into rainbow jerseys.
The Belgian finished second in the time trial behind Italy’s Filippo Ganna and was then unable to follow Julian Alaphilippe’s attack in the road race, his chase group collaborators unwilling to tow Van Aert and his powerful sprint back up the road to contest the win.
“I have nothing to blame myself for, nothing to blame the team for,” Van Aert told Sporza after the finish, his Belgian team having worked hard all day to drive a hard pace and keep the race together. “We did what we wanted to do. I couldn’t follow when Julian attacked. I am disappointed, second is painful. I was great, I had the legs I wanted. But one rider was better. Twice silver, that hits hard.”
Van Aert was the favourite going into the road race, his victories at Strade Bianche and Milan – San Remo being topped up with two stage victories at the Tour de France while also providing mountain domestique duties to Jumbo-Visma team-mate Primož Roglič. However, his climbing legs failed to match the explosive power of Alaphilippe, who attacked with 17km over the top of the last climb and soloed to victory.
“I think Julian had the advantage of punching the hole,” Van Aert explained. “He was the strongest. Despair came [amongst the chasers] only in the last two kilometres and we did not get any closer before that. I had Primož with me whom I know well, he put his best foot forward, but we didn’t get any closer.”
Some sections of Belgian media had criticised Roglič for not doing more to help Van Aert to bring Alaphilippe back, giving how hard the Belgian had worked for the Slovenian in pursuit of the yellow jersey at the Tour.
“I think he [Primož] did everything he could, he was on the limit,” Van Aert said, defending his team-mate. “He knew he could never win the race in that group. I’m certainly not mad at anyone. One unfortunate thing happened and that was that Julian had super legs.
“He was the only one who could make a crack. We were almost at the top of the climb, I knew if we got up there with an elite group then I would not let anyone attack. Then I would have a good chance of becoming champion. But the last hundred metres were too much. That climb is 14 per cent. That says enough.”
Van Aert will now look to the Classics for further opportunities to add major victories to his palmarès, set to line up for Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix next month.