For a moment, for a moment, it looks like the Netherlands will once again, for the second year in a row, take home a medal in the men’s road race at the World Cycling Championships. Belgian Remco Evenepoel really won after a great solo, when a small group of riders stopped less than a kilometer from the finish. Nobody wants to be the first to enter the last few metres, so the rest can run out of their wheel.
Pascal Eenhoorn was released a few kilometers ago on the last climb, but now the riders in front of him suddenly appeared again. He approaches at a higher speed, passes it, and takes a few metres. Can he, like Annemiek van Vleuten, surprise his competitors in the women’s competition?
Things are different, the unicorn is so broken that he can’t keep up. He allows himself to catch him, a larger group joins, and he no longer participates in the group race. Einhorn is 28th behind compatriots Bock Mollema (25) and Dylan Van Barley (27th) – the latter was second in Belgium last year.
It fits the match image of the Dutch team, which was actually beheaded before the start of the race. Leader Matteo van der Poel, the rider many thought could become the first Dutch world champion in Wollongong, Australia since Job Zutemilk in 1985, set off early in the race.
The reason why Van der Poel didn’t want to continue was so strange that his teammates didn’t believe it at first. Mollema thought it was a joke, and Van Barel knew nothing about it, they told the Dutch media at the site after they finished. But Van der Paul himself confirmed the rumors that had been circulating since the early (Australian) morning before the match: he had spent the night before the most important game of the year at the police station.
Van der Poel went to bed early at the Novotel in Brighton, south of Sydney. He was startled by two noisy children in the hallway, and, according to the Dutch leader, they also repeatedly knocked on the door of his room. Three times later, Van der Poel got tired and went to get a story.
According to a statement from the local police, Van der Poel then pushed the two children – two girls aged 13 and 14. One of the girls was going to fall, the other scraping her elbow against the wall. Then they went to the hotel management, who called the police. Around midnight, Van der Poel was taken to the station, where the 27-year-old Dutchman was put in jail and interrogated. Van der Poel denies he pushed the girls.
Van der Poel returned to the hotel only about 4 am, about 7 am, and was able to get some sleep again. His colleagues knew nothing at the time, they had only heard about the turbulent night from their captain a few minutes before the start. The damage had already been done by then: Van der Poel was still riding his bike, but he was so mentally and physically exhausted that he gave up 30 kilometers after his 270 kilometer run.
After that many questions remained: What exactly happened in this hotel corridor? Where were the girls’ fathers? Why was van der Poel the only rider to sleep on a different floor? Where was the KNWU directive that was not in the hotel corridor as well as in the police station?
The national team coach, Kos Morenhout, then told NOS that Van der Poel caught a cold when he arrived in Australia, and therefore slept separately. Morenhout said that only after the incident his commander sent him a text message, and then Van der Poel’s secret advisor and manager Christoph Rudhoft went to the police station.
Van der Poel himself did not want to speak to the press after the match. More will likely become clear next Tuesday when he has to appear in court in the town of Sutherland. Until then, Van der Poel has to stay in Australia – his passport was confiscated, which is a standard procedure.
rule the Belgians
Where marginal matters dominated the road race for the Dutch, the Belgians showed themselves during the race. Just like last year, the Belgian team was formed around two captains: Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel. But where things went completely wrong in their country and Frenchman Julien Alaphilippe won, this time things went according to the Belgians’ plan. Evenbpool reported early in the race that he threw his forces in just like last year, but was so strong that he was alone in the lead over the 25km. He then took the world title with his time trial skills and was more than two minutes ahead of the two (French Christian Laporte) and three (Michael Matthews of Australia) at the end.
The 22-year-old Evenppaul ended his dream with a victory, as he also won the Tour de Spain and the Classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege as well as the rainbow jersey. He is the first rider to complete such a trilogy since Bernard Hinault in 1980.
Evenbühl has been compared to Eddie Merckx by Belgians since his teenage years and he has had to learn to deal with these expectations. This year, he seems to have found the way to take full advantage of his qualities – he can climb, time trial, and run. “I don’t think I’ll ever have a better season,” said the Belgian after becoming world champion. It could just be shyness.