As Mark Cavendish and the Great Britain cracked open the champagne after the elite men's race at the UCI Road World Championships on Sunday, the other major cycling nations were left to explain why they failed to win or even get on the final podium.
Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert was expected to ride an aggressive race just as he did in the Spring Classics and even at the recent GP of Quebec and Montreal. However the world’s number one ranked rider finished a modest 17th place and was never seen on the attack. Jurgen Roelandts was the best Belgian rider in fifth place.
“I always said that I wasn’t the favourite for this course and that turned out to be true,” he told La Derniere Heure newspaper bluntly.
“We wanted to make the race as hard as possible but the British and the Germans kept things under control. I realised it was impossible to get away and so told Jurgen (Roelandts) to take his own chance. We perhaps needed to sprint together to do a bit better. His fifth place isn’t bad even if it could have been better.”
Roelandts was realistic about his chances in a sprint against the likes of Cavendish, Matt Goss and Andre Greipel.
“Beating Cavendish was unthinkable but a place on the podium was possible,” he said.
“The finish was chaotic. I almost crashed twice. Despite that I managed to get back up there and get on Cavendish’s wheel. But then Goss blocked me and that forced me to slow down and change down a gear. That cost me a chance of a medal.”
Graceful in defeat, Roelandts congratulated Great Britain on their success.
“I can only congratulate the British team, they rode a fantastic race,” he said.