Remco Evenepoel wins the Belgian Nationals
Remco Evenepoel turned another dream into reality Sunday afternoon, as he became the first Belgian rider in the last 84 years to win the National Championships with the rainbow jersey on his shoulders, en route delivering the 70th title in the history of Soudal Quick-Step.
“I’m incredibly happy with this win, this gold medal, this beautiful jersey. To triumph at the Road Nationals for the first time in my career is incredible. I dreamed about it since turning pro and now that I’ve done it, it’s just crazy”, an elated Evenepoel said after his eighth success of the season.
Held around Izegem, the race was mainly flat, but had the famous Kemmelberg featuring three times in the first part of the 230.7km course. It was there that several riders drove away, trying to put pressure on the peloton, and our team made sure it was represented in the move by Yves Lampaert. The former Belgian Champion was one of the last two men to get caught by the bunch, together with Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), some 28 kilometres from the finish.
That was the cue for Remco to launch one of his trademark accelerations, a brutal attack that splintered the peloton, leaving only a dozen riders in the front. The World Champion had Dries Devenyns for company, and waited for the final ten kilometers to go again on the offensive, this time only Alec Segaert (Lotto-Dstny) being capable of responding. The newly-formed duo worked well together, building a buffer of 20 seconds, and even though he led under the flamme rouge, Evenepoel easily controlled the sprint, which he won by a clear margin.
“It was a long and hard day, which was complicated even more by the heat. I can’t say I felt good in the first part of the race, when we were in a perfect position, with Yves up the road, while Tim and myself remained in the peloton. It was only in the last two hours that I began feeling better, so I decided to try something, the first time in the final 30 kilometers, and then, with ten kilometers to go.”
“That sprint was probably the longest one of my career, but as I still had something left, I trusted it and I’m glad of how it panned out after five hours in the saddle. To have two of cycling’s most beautiful and prestigious jerseys in my palmares gives me a lot of pleasure”, added Remco, who over the last twelve months has won Clasica San Sebastian, Vuelta a España, the World Championships, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Belgian Nationals.
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images