When the Brabançonne sounded on the podium in Wollongong (Australia), tears invaded Remco Evenepoel’s baby face. They did it with the finger in his mouth, a few minutes before when he crossed the line, to celebrate his first world championship title, on Sunday, September 25. A gesture as if to respond to the criticism that has often fallen on the impetuous Belgian. But they no longer have a say in the matter, as his world title has finally cemented his dominance.
“I’m super happy. He dreamed of being world champion. A Monument, a classic, a Grand Tour, the World Cup: I won it all this year, it’s incredible.”He could not believe the new holder of the rainbow shirt after his victory. Thanks to this title, the man who only changed football for cycling in 2017 becomes the first winner of a Monument (the five great cycling classics), a Grand Tour and a World Cup since Bernard Hinault in 1980. Alfredo Binda (1927) and Eddy Merckx (1971) being the other two runners who have achieved this feat.
Above all, this success crowns an exceptional season and its return to the fore. “It is no coincidence that it is Remco (evenpoel) who wins. It was very strong and not just today. He had an amazing season.”he even greeted outgoing two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe, at the France Télévisions microphone.
Two years after his very serious fall into a ravine in the Tour of Lombardy and more than a year after his resumption of competition, Remco Evenepoel has confirmed his return to the fore. Even further, as he has shown that he can win on almost any ground.
His first stroke of brilliance came at home in Belgium. At the end of April, the Flemish beat Liège-Bastogne-Liège. By hanging the dean of the classics in front of his compatriots Quinten Hermans and Wout van Aert, the boy from Schepdaal entered another dimension, that of Monument winners. “I can say today that I have returned to my best level and that I am among the best in the world.”vindicated after his victory achieved in a scenario similar to that of his world title, with an overwhelmed attack less than 30 kilometers from the finish line.
In Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he has already succeeded Philippe Gilbert, the last Belgian to raise his arms at La Cité ardente (2011). He repeated the performance at the World Cup, ten years after his eldest. “I couldn’t dream of having a better successor to the world title”He rightly commented on the future retiree on his Twitter account.
competition @EvenepoelRemco ! I couldn’t have dreamed of a better successor to the world title! #Belgium #World Champion pic.twitter.com/Ebsei7PJmH
— Philippe Gilbert (@PhilippeGilbert) September 25, 2022
After a second consecutive victory in the Clásica de San Sebastián (Spain), at the end of July, with disconcerting ease, Remco Evenepoel then appeared at the start of the Vuelta. He arrived full of ambition for his second experience in a Grand Tour, more than a year after a difficult Giro that he had ended up abandoning. It was then his return to competition, nine months after his violent fall in the Tour of Lombardy.
Therefore, “the little cannibal” was the subject of special scrutiny on Iberian roads. He lived up to the hype by dominating the Vuelta a España head and shoulders. He fifteen days with the red jersey of overall leader and two stage wins in his pocket to become the first Belgian to win a Grand Tour since Johan De Muynck in 1978.
His accompanying doubts about his ability to shine for three weeks were shattered. The field of possibilities has been widened even further for the son of Patrick Evenepoel, a professional cyclist in the 1990s.
Two weeks later, the highlight of a real season was planted in Wollongong, Australia. His third-place finish last Sunday in the time trial raised questions about the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider’s form. Over the course of the designed road race south of Sydney, Remco Evenepoel responded in the best possible way.
The World Championships were not, however, a good memory for the prodigy. Last year, during the World Cup played at home, in Leuven (Belgium), he set fire to the gunpowder of the Belgian team for not having respected the tactics articulated around Wout van Aert. This year they were both team leaders and the wheeler’s daring performance paid off.
“We ran as a team today, we wanted to bring the jersey to Belgium, commented the new world champion on France Télévisions. Whether it was Wout (van Aert) or me, it was the same. He was instructed to wait and I was instructed to attack first, that’s what I did.”
The legitimate pressure of such an event had no negative influence on the Flemish. The one that imposes the iridescent jersey at each start is obviously different but nothing seems to hinder the delirious ascent of Remco Evenepoel. The next stage must inevitably take him to the Tour de France. Waiting for the world champion to be there from 2023…