Belgium's Victor Campenaerts was an outside favourite to medal at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships, and he expressed his utter surprise at securing the bronze in the elite men's individual time trial Wednesday in Innsbruck.
"I did not expect this at all," Campenaerts told reports in the mixed zone after finishing third behind Rohan Dennis (Australia) and Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands).
"I'm super happy. To me, it feels a little bit like winning because it was the highest I could aim for. I knew that Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis, especially on this parcours, would be outstanding."
Campenaerts had a solid season in the time trials with second place at the Volta ao Algarve, fifth in the prologue at Tour de Romandie, third in the prologue at the Giro d'Italia and fourth in the prologue at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
He went on to win the titles in the time trial at the Belgium and European Championships, and took that success into the BinckBank Tour with second in the stage 2 time trial and then third in the opening stage of the Vuelta a España.
Dennis competed in the team time trial on Sunday where his BMC Racing team took the bronze medal. He said that he was worried about Campenaerts after he decided not to race the event with his Lotto Soudal team.
"I was worried about him after he didn't ride the TTT," Dennis said. "It was a long one, and it does take it out of you. He got close in the time trials at the Giro and the Vuelta, so you couldn't count him out. He's not just another rider; he's a genuine contender."
Ahead of the Innsbruck time trial, however, Campenaerts said that the course didn't suit his characteristics because it included a significant climb over Gnadenwald in the final third of the 52.1km course.
"I knew that maybe I could take the third place but it would be tough with the tough climb, and it was not the perfect parcours for me," he said.
Dennis won the title after covering the course in 1:03:02, almost a minute and a half ahead of defending champion Dumoulin. But the Dutchman just barely squeezed in for the silver medal after beating Campenaerts by less than a second. Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski finished in fourth place 2:04 down.
"After all, it seemed that I was battling for the second place and behind me, there was a decent gap, so I'm super satisfied to end my season this way."
Asked if he was disappointed to lose the silver medal by such a close margin, Campenaerts said, "To be honest, I'm not disappointed, not at all.
"I'm happy with third place. I knew that Dumoulin and Dennis would be outstanding on this course, so this feels like a victory to me."