Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) stated his claim for a place in the Belgian team for the rapidly approaching Road World Championships, winning the Druivenkoers-Overijse one-day race with a 60km solo attack.
A car accident and fire forced race organisers to stop the race for 15 minutes with 35km to go when Evenepoel had just a 35-second lead. However he calmly waited for the race to restart and then opened a bigger gap on his rivals.
His Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Mikkel Honoré finished second 40 seconds down on Evenepoel, with Aime De Gendt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) third after they escaped the peloton in the final kilometres.
The modified race route included a number of the short, steep climbs that will be raced during this year's Road Race World Championships near Leuven in September. Evenepoel has been selected for the Belgian team for the time trial at the European Championships in Trento, Italy but has still to secure one of the eight much sought after places in the Belgian team for the World Championship on home roads.
Druivenkoers-Overijse marked the start of Julian Alaphilippe's return to racing, with Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen also in the Deceuninck-QuickStep line-up and Fernando Gaviria, March Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) also in action. That did not deter Evenepoel.
Deceuninck-QuickStep worked to split the peloton on the Veeweide climb with 65km to go, caught the early breakaway and then sparked a further selection. When Evenepoel rolled off the front, Alaphilippe told him over the radio to press on and so the 21-year-old wunderkind surged away. Lotto Soudal and Alpecin-Fenix led the chase before and after the fire but were unable to pull back Evenepoel.
He sat in the road and cried for a moment after crossing the finish line, clearly emotional about his victory, just 30km from his home to the south of Brussels.
"It's crazy," Evenepoel said, after wiping away his tears.
"It wasn't the main plan to attack alone with 60km to go but there were three of us in the eight-rider move and then Julian told me to go and said they'd block from beyond. It was a perfect day."
Evenepoel was disappointed that the car fire had disrupted his attack but set off more determined than ever when the race was restarted.
"I was thinking it was over. But I was hoping to recover more than bunch and then keep the gap on them. Luckily I managed to do that. It was a hard day but we finished it off well, so I'm very happy."
"The World Championships? I leave that to the national coach," he said, carefully dodging questions about his place in the national team.
"It is just unbelievable that I can win here."
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|2||Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|3||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|4||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|5||Bram Welten (Ned) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|6||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|7||Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|8||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB|
|9||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|10||Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates|
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