Remco Evenepoel went solo to win the men's World Championships road race after a long day of racing in Australia. The recent Vuelta a España winner went clear as a result of his second major attack and never looked likely to be brought back.
The rest of the favourites had somehow allowed a rider of Evenepoel's talents to move to the front of the race and then attack to get an unassailable lead, already with a head start as he'd worked his way through the groups with the assistance of teammates.
Looking from the comfort and wisdom of an armchair, it's hard to see how or why the rest of the nations with a viable contender for the race could let this happen.
As the bell rang to signify the final lap, the peloton was bunched up and the impetus was gone from the chase.
Head down and time-trialling along, in the drops and pedalling with style, Evenepoel ticked off the kilometres while the riders scattered behind him were left hoping they might find a minor step on the podium.
How it happened
The men's World Championships road race started with a clear group of favourites, one of whom was Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands. However, the big news going into the race was an incident in a Sydney hotel that saw the superstar rider arrested and having to spend several hours in an Australian police station.
The race started at 10:15 local time, Van der Poel hadn't got back to his hotel until about 04:00. He abandoned the elite men's road race inside the first 35km of the 266.9km event, causing the Dutch team into a rethink of their pre-race tactics.
Along with the French squad, the Dutch pulled on the front and broke up the race at times.
A group of hopefuls, never likely to actually win the race, went clear and rode off the front for a significant chunk of the race. In that group was Juraj Sagan, wearing his Slovakia jersey for the last time as he intends to retire at the end of the season following a career in the service – and shadow – of his much-decorated brother, Peter. Once his group was caught, Juraj called it a day on his race.
Accelerations and splits began to occur in the last 50km of the race, the most significant of which saw Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) pushing clear with Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) trying his best to cling on.
Everyone knows what the young Belgian is capable of, and you need the legs to be able to go with him, but somehow the rest of the favourites found themselves 2:20 beind with 26km to go. To really make the point, Evenepoel then rode Lutsenko off his wheel on the ascent of Mount Pleasant.
There were groups in between, but the time gaps were barely budging, with groups further back not even able to chase down and work with others further up the road.
It took another Belgian, Wout van Aert to put a bit of impetus into the chase. This briefly improved his own chances of getting on the podium but did, arguably, have the benefit to his leading-teammate of shelling out some rivals who might have been a threat to the win.
But the chase didn't last long and it was game over for most of the riders left in the race, even if they were able to chase back into the podium places later.
Lutsenko rode on bravely, trying to stay clear of a small chase group in the hope of finishing second. But within the last 10km he was caught over the top of a late ascent, his earlier efforts clearly showing.
Van Aert and Albeto Bettiol (Italy) chased down a few groups but the win was long gone. As the Lutsenko quartet came almost to a halt under the flamme rouge, the larger Van Aert group caught and passed them, gaining second for Christophe Laporte (France) and third for Michael Matthews (Australia).
Results: UCI Road World Championships 2022 – Men's elite road race (266.9km)
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel), in 6:16:08
2. Christophe Laporte (Fra) at 2:21
3. Michael Matthews (Aus), at same time
4. Wout van Aert (Bel), st
5. Matteo Trentin (Ita), st
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor), st
7. Peter Sagan (Svk), st
8. Alberto Bettoil (Ita), st
9. Ethan Hayter (GBr), st
10. Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Den), st
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