“I’ve got a bit of a headache due to too many beers,” Bernal joked to Sporza before the race, admitting he is still struggling to understand that he won the 2019 Tour de France.
“To be honest, I still haven’t realised what’s happened. I need a few days at home and then I’ll realise what has happened.
“It’s always special to be in Belgium. The Tour started here, and so we've kind of completed the circle. Belgium has a lot of history in cycling, so it’s always a pleasure to be here.”
Bernal travelled to Aalst from Paris after celebrating with his family and his Ineos teammates near the Arc de Triomphe. His only moment out of the spotlight was a walk to the Eiffel Tower with his family and partner Xiomy on Monday afternoon.
He will ride the Roeselare criterium on Tuesday night along with teammate Jonathan Castroviejo. He was reported to be riding the Clasica San Sebastian race on Saturday but revealed in Aalst that he may soon head to Colombia, where he is due to be awarded the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit by Colombian President Iván Duque.
Post-Tour de France criteriums are more like exhibition matches that real races but Evenpoel was delighted to ‘win’ on what was his first ever professional criterium in front of a reported 50,000 crowd that packed the 1.2km circuit that was covered 65 times.
Evenepoel won the three-rider sprint ahead of Bernal and Laurens De Plus of Jumbo-Visma. The Belgian national champion Tim Merlier (Corendon-Circus) was fourth and Tour stage winner Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) completed the Top 5.
"It was an incredible experience," Evenepoel said. "There were lot of people. I was able to share a few words during the race with Egan Bernal, I hope to meet this guy again during the races; we are both young and know how difficult it is to win."