Looking like the Blues Brothers as they tried to stave off the September sun in Bruges, the task at hand for Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert isn't raising $5,000 to save a Catholic church, but mustering the watts to beat Italian Filippo Ganna in Sunday's time trial at the UCI Road World Championships.
“What have I learned? That it is a real time trial course. Flat, 44 kilometers almost straight, hardly any bends. Anyone who can ride fast for a long time has an advantage here," Evenepoel said, reported in Wielerflits, having arrived days ago to settle in and become acquainted with the course.
"I hope that I will be one percent better on Sunday than in Trento [European Championships]. That will be necessary to win. I think Wout feels the same way.”
Evenepoel finished third in the time trial event at the recent European Championships, seven seconds behind second-place Filippo Ganna and 15 in arrears to the Swiss winner Stefan Küng.
“It is not possible to make a comparison with Trento. This is flatter, but I fueled my confidence last week. Despite my 60 kilograms, I will focus on my aerodynamics and my power. The role of the wind? Not easy, because it will certainly be there. It's just a matter of accepting how it blows."
Evenepoel's disappointment at then picking up a silver medal in the road race after being defeated by Sonny Colbrelli was palpable, but he is determined to enjoy a home World Championships.
“I think it's special to race in my own country anyway. That is of course even more the case at a World Championships.
"Am I going to enjoy it? Difficult, in a time trial. But it is certain that it will be a unique experience. However, it is being careful not to start too enthusiastically, and it is being roused by the audience.”
“What Remco says," Van Aert agreed. "We leave at the coast and I expect the most people to be there. [It's] treacherous to get carried away in the atmosphere but we both have enough experience. And in the final, the presence of the masses can even be an advantage. I even hope for it, so that it will be an unforgettable day.”
Van Aert has arrived back home victorious from the Tour of Britain, with legs that he ominously says will be even better than they were across the English Channel.
"Perhaps I would have preferred it a little more difficult," Van Aert says of the TT course, “but this flat track is also suitable for the type of rider I am. I am not afraid of that.
“The men to beat Sunday are Ganna and Küng, and they are also well-trained in that [flat TT]. It is a suitable course for all three of us. I aim for the highest [finish].”
Of course, Van Aert managed silver in both the road race and time trial at Imola 2020, denied the rainbow bands by Julian Alaphilippe and Filippo Ganna respectively.
"I don't have an attack plan yet, I have to understand it, see it, study the details, the curves, the tears, the straights," the Italian defending champion told la Repubblica, keeping his cards close to his chest.
"It has a not exaggerated [flat] altitude difference, it is longer than that of Imola in 2020. In the time trials, it is up to you and it depends on the opponents, on the day they have, on a gust of wind, on how you sleep. Whoever makes fewer mistakes will win."
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