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UCI Road World Championships 2021: Men's Elite Road Race - Live Coverage

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Good morning to you and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the men's elite road race at the 2021 UCI Road World Championship. It's early, so put on some coffee and settle in for today's main event. We'll be here all day with live text coverage and all the best bits from the elite men's road race. We're about 45 minutes from the roll out.

The elite men have a lot to live up to today after the pulsating race we saw yesterday in the women's field. It was one of the best Worlds we've had in years. Catch up with the report, results, and photos, right here.

Elisa Balsamo (Italy) wins the elite women's title at the 2021 World Championships

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

And while you're at it check out Brecht Decaluwe's excellent analysis of the Dutch women's team after they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Lots of interesting comments from the Dutch riders and some very clear issues over the harmony - or lack of it - at the finish. Here's the story.

Ahead of the men's race, check out our top ten contenders' feature. Just selecting ten was hard enough but here's what we've got. Who are you tipping for the rainbow jersey today? 

BOORTMEERBEEK BELGIUM SEPTEMBER 18 LR Hideto Nakane of Japan and Team EF Education Nippo and Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team Deceuninck QuickStep compete during the 11th Primus Classic 2021 a 1977km race from Brakel to Boortmeerbeek Wespelaar Haacht primusclassic PrimusClassic on September 18 2021 in Boortmeerbeek Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Meanwhile, you can find our complete and up to date startlist, right here.

The course for today is 268.3km in length and features a lap of the Leuven circuit, then a lap of the Flanders loop, then four laps of Leuven again, another Flandrien lap and, then, another two-and-a-half laps of the Leuven circuit again. Confused? Me too.

Basically a break will go. They'll get a huge gap before Belgium drill it on the front for a few hours until we've got about 40km to go. Then we'll have a first set of attacks before the main contenders start taking shots at each other. We'll have a winner, probably a Danish one, and then we'll do it all over again in Australia in 2022.

Some of the mind games have already started in the press with van der Poel putting the pressure on his arch rival Van Aert ahead of the race. Both riders will line up as major contenders today, even if there's a concern with the Dutch athlete's preparation.

"Van Aert is the big favourite and I think he has the best chances. If you see how he's been racing the last few weeks, it can't be helped," Van der Poel said.

Story is here.

We're about 25 minutes away from the official roll out here in Belgium and a number of riders are already on the startline. No sign of the defending champion Alaphilippe but he will be on the front before the race gets underway.  

In other news: Lappartient defends 2025 Rwanda Worlds amid human rights and sportswashing concerns

UCI president David Lappartient at the 2020 World Championships in Imola, Italy

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Van Aert, who was second last year, second in the TT, and second in the Olympics will be racing for gold today. He's the main favourite but keeps being marked out of major races.  Everyone will be looking at him today and expecting him to make the race. Here's what he said on the eve of the race.

“Having a World Championship in our home country and being the guy to watch, that’s a nice feeling. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that but I try to enjoy it.

“I’ve felt really good the last couple of weeks, so I’m prepared well as possible. There’s some more tension, but for now it just gives me positive feelings. Thinking about the amount of spectators on side of the road, I’m actually really looking forward to experiencing it. I hope it will be an extraordinary day.”

Story is here.

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sonny Colbrelli is on the startline and he's a huge favourite today. It's hard to imagine him being dropped today if he can handle the distance. He's been incredible this year, with a string of wins but it's his climbing that has really stood out over the last few months.

“That circuit is exposed and there could be wind on the climbs, so maybe teams without a sprinter will try to attack to open it up. The circuit in Leuven is a fast circuit but there are a still a lot of places where you have to accelerate.”

Here's what Colbrelli and Matteo Trentin - second two years ago - had to say.

Tom Pidcock is on the start line, there he is talking in the pre-race mix zone. He wasn't able to attend his own pre-race press conference on Friday but Mark Cavendish mastered the dark arts of Zoom (or was it Teams?) to sign in and here's what he had to say about the depth to the British squad.

Pidcock is a genuine contender today and off the back of his stellar first year in the WorldTour he has an excellent chance of taking his first elite rainbow jersey. The Brit pack have Hayter in the team too, and he's in the form of his life. 

Not long now before the riders roll out for the neutralized zone. It's just a matter of minutes.

Lots of Danish riders near the front at the moment. They have a stack of possible winners in their ranks with Asgreen, Cort, Valgren and 2019 winner Pedersen in their ranks. Arguably they have the strongest team in the race. Here's our pre-race analysis of their team - while a batch of other teams are pinned to the top of this page. 

HARROGATE ENGLAND SEPTEMBER 29 Arrival Mads Pedersen of Denmark Celebration Matteo Trentin of Italy during the 92nd UCI Road World Championships 2019 Men Elite Road Race a 2618km race from Leeds to Harrogate 125m RR Yorkshire2019 Yorkshire2019 on September 29 2019 in Harrogate England Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

And we are off. Lappartient has waved his flag and we're off through the neutralized zone. Conditions look decent with only a few riders in arm warmers and the sun breaking through the clouds.

Benoot has a bit of a mechanical, it seems, but is off and running too as we see Roglic and Alaphilippe share a few words. Peter Sagan is there too and hardly anyone is talking about the three time winner but he's in a great position for today's race.

Everyone seems pretty relaxed at the moment as we see van der Poel having a natter with his teammates right at the back of the peloton.

We're still behind the neutralized car but conditions look almost perfect out there right now. That might change once we get to the loops as we might have some cross-wind action.

About a dozen riders on the front and you can just tell from their concentration that they're going to try and get into the main break of day. We've got riders from Ireland, Greece, Poland, Germany to name but a few nations.

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Almost through Antwerp, and the flag is about to drop.

And the first attack comes from Ireland with Rory Townsend trying to skip off the front of the main field. 

Townsend is brought back but Albania have a little dig as the entire field is strung out along the Belgian high-way.

266km to go

Dunbar is the next rider to have a dig. Three riders go with him but the peloton react and bring everything back together. 

Nelson Oliveira (Portugal) has a mechanical as another wave of attacks takes place but nothing is sticking just yet and we're still all together.

Dunbar tries again to form a break and another batch of riders follow him. We finally have some daylight but the move is once more closed down.

Meanwhile at the back van der Poel remains calm and takes a drink as Evenepoel rides by his Dutch rival. 

Nils Politt (Germany) has a rear wheel flat but the change is relatively quick as Greece fire another rider up the road.

258km to go and five riders are clear and this could be our break of the day. 

Colombia and Sweden are in the mix but another three or four riders are attempting to bridge over. 

Townsend is there, along with Gamper. We have eight riders clear and this looks like the break of the day.

247km to go

Rory Townsend (Ireland), Jose Tito Hernandez Jaramillo (Colombia), Joel Burbano Coral (Ecuador), Pavel Kochetkov (Russian Cycling Federation), Patrick Gamper (Austria), Oskar Nisu (Estonia), Kim Magnusson (Sweden) and Jambaljamts Sainbayar (Mongolia) are the break of the day.  They have 2'21 over the peloton.

It's flat for now but the climbs come thick and fast after this section of the course. Surely it will be Belgium who take up the race first as the gap to the break stretches to almost three minutes. The bunch can probably give these riders ten minutes, if not a bit more.

And it's the Belgians who take it up already with Tim Declercq (Belgium) setting the early pace. It looks like the Belgian and the Danes will share the early pace at this point in the race. 243km to go.

A number of other nations have moved up too with Slovenia, Germany and Italy towards the front. The gap is 3'36 with 242km to go.

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Caleb Ewan, if on great form could be a feature today. Remember how well he was climbing in Milan-San Remo? It's a different course today but the Australian can roll with the punches on short climbs when he's in form. It's also Michael Matthews' birthday and he's not won a race all year. Will fate play it's part because when on form he can also ride for the medals in World Championship.

The Danes are on the front with Bjerg setting the pace. They're wearing black armbands today in the race to honour the memory of Chris Anker Sørensen who tragically died last week. Right now the Danish and Belgian squads are sharing the pace on the front with the gap at 4'27.

Typically the break at the Worlds enjoys a really healthy buffer but the peloton aren't giving them much leeway today with the gap creeping towards five minutes with 230km to go.

226km

Five minutes for our eight leaders out front now as we head closer and closer to the first climb. No hints of rain or bad weather as the sun continues to shine and that will be a factor.

Comfort break for a number of riders in the bunch before we hit the first loop of climbs as we see Hodeg off the back for a mechanical. Looks like he's not happy with his saddle height.

The break continue to find a few seconds here and there and the gap has extended to 5'18 but we will see a reaction from the bunch once we race into the foot of the first climb. The battle for positioning will be key. 

Alaphilippe has a really strong team around him today. No Martin, like last year but Cavagna, Cosnefroy, Laporte Senechal, and the underrated Turgis offer some great cover. A number of those riders should still be in the race come the finale and so far they've not had to do any work. 

1 Julian Alaphilippe (France)

2 Remi Cavagna (France)

3 Benoit Cosnefroy (France)

4 Arnaud Demare (France)

5 Christophe Laporte (France)

6 Valentin Madouas (France)

7 Clement Russo (France)

8 Florian Senechal (France)

9 Anthony Turgis (France)

Denmark still doing their turns on the front. When I talked to Pedersen a few days ago he said that the Danes would ride a proactive race and not watch their rivals, and so far they're true to their word. 

216km to go

216km to go and the gap is at 5'46. The battle for positioning has started with Germany, Australia and Slovenia moving up. This is a key part of the race, even this early on.

This team is stacked.

Luka Mezgec (Slovenia)

Matej Mohoric (Slovenia)

Domen Novak (Slovenia)

David Per (Slovenia)

Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia)

Jan Polanc (Slovenia)

Primoz Roglic (Slovenia)

Jan Tratnik (Slovenia)

Crash and several riders are down. And one of them is Hayter for Great Britain.

The bunch were getting tense as we approached the circuit and of course it leads to a touch of wheels. Hayter is back on his feet but that's a blow for the British team as we see Haas bringing Matthews towards the front.

Perry from Canada was involved in that fall but he's back up and chasing. 213km to go.

We're on the first of 42 climbs today, Wijnpers, and the crowds are huge. The gap between the break and the bunch is at 5'59.

The Swiss have hit the front too as the bunch hit the foot of the climb.

Swift by name, Swift by nature and B Swift leads Pidcock and company to the front.

France hit the right hand corner first and Alaphilippe is right there. The Brits, Belgians and Swiss lead the race and the roar from the crowds is truly incredible. 

The race goes up the Wijnpers eight times today, so one down seven to go and 41 climbs still in the race. The break have 5'31 with 207km to go.

206km to go

The break. - Rory Townsend (Ireland), Jose Tito Hernandez Jaramillo (Colombia), Joel Burbano Coral (Ecuador), Pavel Kochetkov (Russian Cycling Federation), Patrick Gamper (Austria), Oskar Nisu (Estonia), Kim Magnusson (Sweden) and Jambaljamts Sainbayar (Mongolia) cross the finish line for the first time and it's Sainbayar who leads. 

Tim Declercq (Belgium) is back on the front again and setting the pace as we take on a few tricky corners. 

Cavagna has a mechanical is calling for a new front wheel as the bunch race over the line for the first time too, 5'17 seconds down on the break.

Neilson Powless, who has had some great results this summer, brings up the rear.

SAN SEBASTIAN SPAIN JULY 31 Neilson Powless of United States and Team EF Education Nippo celebrates at podium with the Txapela hat trophy as race winner during the 41st Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa 2021 a 2235km race from DonostiaSan Sebastian to DonostiaSan Sebastian Klasikoa on July 31 2021 in San Sebastian Spain Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo MorenoGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

We're into the heart of Leuven and those crowds are just incredible. The 'new normal' is still a little bit weird to see but there's no denying the Belgian fans' passion  for the sport of cycling.

We're onto the Decouxlaan climb with just under 200km to go in the race. The bunch have drawn back 25 seconds since the first ascent of the race.

We're hearing from our man on the ground Brecht Decaluwe that the organisers are no longer letting fans onto the Wijnpers.

The pace is high at the front of the peloton to as Belgium continue to do the work but Slovenia have just brought their entire team to the front as well. Things are already hotting up and we've still got 197km to go.

The break hit the foot of the Wijnpers for a second time and there are already a few tired legs in the eight-rider move.

Gamper takes a long pull on the front for the break as the bunch hit the climb 4'15 down. 

Tim Declercq (Belgium) remains on the front with the rest of the Belgian team tucked behind his frame as the French and Germans gather just behind.  The Danish presence has slipped back since we hit the circuit. 

The road flattens out and the bunch hit the highway again. This is where crashes can happen because the pace drops and riders look behind them to survey the damaged caused. 188km to go.

Hirschi, another rider who has found form after going missing at the start the campaign, has been moved up too, and he's a real contender for the rainbow jersey given his sprint and climbing credentials. 

Valgren right at the back having a drink but there's a crash!

Trentin, Pedersen and Ballerini all down. That was a really hard crash near the back of the bunch.

Ballerini is still down. The others are back up on their feet but that was a really heavy fall. Ballerini was coming back with bottles and he seemed to collide with Trentin. Pedersen was just behind and calling for the car but even if he had two hands on the bar and was looking forward he wouldn't have been able to avoid that. The 2019 winner of this race with a crash with 184km to go.

Ballerini is finally up on his feet but that's a huge blow for Italy and Denmark. It looks like Ballerini might be out of the race at this point.

Part of you has to question why two huge contenders were at the back of the peloton but it looks like Ballerini has made it back. Which is great to see. 

182km to go

Turgis attacks and Belgium,  Australia and German are on the case. 

Turgis was marked heavily with Evenepoel right there but Schar now attacks and Evenepoel marks the move right away.

The bunch hit the foot of the Smeysberg for the first time with 181km to go. This race is coming alive and we've still got such a long distance to race.

Cavagna takes it up and tries to split the peloton and once again it's the Belgian squad that close things down. 

More action for the French but it's a mechanical for Laporte. Nice and quick change for the future Jumbo Visma rider. Now the bunch hit the Smeysberg.

Benoit Cosnefroy (France) attacks right away. Cort counters, with Evenepoel. 178km to go.

One more rider is trying to make it over to the trio as the Belgian now block the road. 

France have been really aggressive so far in the race as up ahead the break hit the hardest part of the climb. Their advantage is 3'41.

Belgian Remco Evenepoel of Deceuninck QuickStep pictured ahead of a training session ahead of the UCI World Championships Road Cycling Flanders 2021 in Brugge Friday 17 September 2021 The World Championships take place from 19 to 26 September 2021 in several cities in Flanders BelgiumBELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: David Stockman/Belga/AFP/Getty Images)

Benoit Cosnefroy (France), Remco Evenepoel (Belgium), and Magnus Cort (Denmark) are a really powerful group and it's forced Italy into the chase. The gap is only about 15 seconds.

The Evenepoel trio hit the cobbled climb of the Moskesstraat, which peaks out at 18 percent. It looks like they have about 30 seconds already. 

This race has lit up dramatically and at such an early stage as Evenepoel comes through and takes a long pull on the front of the three man move. There are also splits at the front of the peloton.

173km to go

Asgreen, Stewart and Kung are in a third group,  just off the front of the peloton and we have a bit of cross-winds out there. 

Evenepoel is taking huge turns on the front of the three man move but their gap is down to maybe 15 seconds. Italy are once more on the back foot and forced to chase.

Benoit Cosnefroy (France) who caused all this on the last climb looks back and now Silvan Dillier (Switzerland) and Jake Stewart attack in tandem. 

Slovenia are now helping Italy with the chase and the groups are coming back together but we still have the break and the Evenepoel group up the road.

16 seconds for the Evenpoel trio as we climb again and now a huge attack from Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland). It's like we're on the last lap.

Britain are trying to bring this back together but Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland) is with Evenepoel now and there's a rider with Slovenia too. Then there's a second group, and then the stretched out peloton. Asgreen is in the second group and we could have about 13 riders in this Evenepoel group with 169km to go.

Haas is there for Australia. Good ride from him but Italy has missed the move again. Roglic and Tratnik are in the Evenepoel group. 169km to go.

This race has been blown to pieces as the Dutch fire a rider up the road. This Evenepoel group could determine the race, the firepower is certainly there. Is the group too big though?

Belgium have two riders up the road but it looks like they might be leading the chase as Asgreen puts the hammer down on the next cobbled climb. The Danes sense the urgency and Asgreen is going flat out. This is sensational racing.

Only about five riders can follow Asgreen and now the Belgians are letting the move to go clear. Italy can't bring this back on their own. Will Spain pitch in? Maybe Germany?

166km to go and this could be the winning group. Asgreen for me is probably the best placed rider and it's little wonder that he put in such a big dig on the last climb. 

164km to go

Italy move up and they're now chasing. Poland, Germany and possibly the Dutch will ride. GB and Australia might not be happy with the break, even though they have riders in the move, and they might react and help pull this back. 

A huge crash now in the bunch. Two Danes are involved, Pedersen again. 

Kron too as most of the riders are back up and on their feet.

The Evenepoel group consists of: Roglič, Asgreen, Evenepoel, Declercq, Démare, Cosnefroy, Cort, McNulty, Bissegger, Tratnik, Hoelgaard, Eenkhoorn, Erviti, Swift, Haas. They have one minute on the peloton.

Italy missed so many moves in the race already but this is the one that really counts and they're in a real panic to try and chase this down.

With Cort and Asgreen in the second group the Danes are in a really good position. Valgren can just sit in and wait back in the peloton.  Italy are putting in a real shift though, and the gap is down to 55 seconds with 161km to go.

Ballerini is on the front and he's burying himself for the cause. Italy might need to sacrifice a leader in order to bring this back together.

Onto the Smeysberg once again and Evenepoel is driving the second group on the road. There are a couple of passengers but most of the riders here are totally committed. 

The Roglic/Evenepoel group hit the foot of the Smeysberg and Evenepoel is being screamed at by Declercq. And now Trentin is leading the chase, so he's putting it on the line for Colbrelli already. Italy are in trouble, even if the race comes back together.

Declercq didn't look happy, even shaking his head when Evenepoel hit the front. Trentin is still on the front and the gap is at 48 seconds with 157km to go.

Haas decides he's not going to work, and Evenepoel isn't happy. The Australian doesn't have to take a turn though, not at this point. 

Trentin has been on the front for the last 5km, with Moscon on his wheel. Van Aert is getting a free ride here, Pogacar and van der Poel too as up front Asgreen and Evenepoel trade turns.

Moscon has a mechanical. This race is unravelling for Italy at this point. A reminder of the riders in the break:

Roglič, Asgreen, Evenepoel, Declercq, Démare, Cosnefroy, Cort, McNulty, Bissegger, Tratnik, Hoelgaard, Eenkhoorn, Erviti, Swift, Haas.

150km to go

The Evenepoel group have 35 seconds on the peloton, while the day's early break have 1'32. 

Bjerg and Benoot drop back for bottles but still Evenepoel is doing a huge amount of work in his second group. Again Declercq comes up and has a word.

Trentin has given everything for this chase and finally his efforts are paying off with the gap at 20 seconds. The bunch can see the Roglic/Evenepoel group up the road.

Slovenia then lift the pace with Roglic and the gap goes out to another 10 seconds. No race radios, which is making for fascinating racing and tactics. 

Cavendish, who won this race ten years ago, drops back for a chit chat with the team car as we head into Leuven. The early break hit the climb of Sint-Antoniusberg.

The gap is down again, this time to 28 seconds as Asgreen takes another long pull and leads onto the Sint-Antoniusberg.

Trentin again is leading for the Italian team and the entire race is separated by just 1'22.

Declercq and Evenepoel still don't appear to be on the same wavelength as Declercq shakes his head yet again. It's like Eddy Merckx has him on remote control. 

A crash in the feed zone. Gibbons is down and he's not getting back up. Cortina is another one on the deck, while the US had two riders involved. Gibbons is moving but he's lying on his side and isn't going to be returning to the race by the look of things. 

Through Leuven again and the bunch is strung out with the gap to the Evenepoel/Asgreen group just a few seconds clear. Trentin has basically given up his race for the Italian cause today.

137km to go

Caleb Ewan is riding really well, he's just behind the Italian train as the early break hit the Keizersberg. 

Evenepoel again lifts the pace but the gap is down to just nine seconds. 

Ballerini is just at the back of the bunch. He looks on the limit after the work, and the crash he had earlier. 

133km to go

And the Evenepoel group has been caught. 

Evenepoel is still taking long pulls with the bunch strung out.  The day's early break are just 15 seconds clear.

There's that tight right hand corner and we're about to climb Wijnpers again. Slovenia set the pace with the day's break just ahead of them and Trentin is done. Huge effort from him but that's a blow for Italy to lose such an important rider with 131km to go.

131km to go

131km to go and the entire race is back together.

Saying that we have another split and the attacks follow. Belgium bring Van Aert up towards the front but another really big group is clear.

Belgium are wise to this 24-rider group and they bring it back together again. 

The peloton are cut in half now with Belgium, Slovenia, and France leading the race. GB have jerseys in the group too as Sint-Antoniusberg approaches with Turgis setting the pace. It looks like van der Poel has missed this major split.

And France push on with the van der Poel group about 15 seconds. And now a Dutch rider has attacked, even though van der Poel is still chasing and Pogacar follows that move.  That's the first time we've seen the Tour winner in action.

Van der Poel is bring dragged back but his teammate's attack will not help.

Laporte then takes over and leads the peloton and van der Poel is sitting right at the back after just making contact. 126km to go as we cross the line again. This race has been brutal. 

Ewan appears to be slipping back a bit. 

And France go again with a rider kicking clear with Lampaert closing the move down.

I think that's Valentin Madouas who leads the bunch as Spain kick in with the pace setting. 125km to go.

Turgis is back at the front and leading the peloton. The situation has slightly calmed down since we started this loop but just as I write that Germany fly off the front with Georg Zimmermann (Germany). Connor Swift, and Honore mark the move and the race starts to come back together. 

Clement Russo looks done for the day as Georg Zimmermann (Germany) tries for a second time. No dice.

Sagan, with very little attention on him, is near the front too as the pace eases for just a minute.

Hayter now attacks with 119km to go. 

And the Dutch match the move on the Decouxlaan. Again the pace slows momentarily but France go again on the climb. Turgis once more. In fact two French rider are on the move and it's Cosnefroy.

About ten riders are in this move. Bodnar, Swift, Tratnik as well with Ballerini abandoning the race with 117km to go.

We're already onto the next climb and Turgis attacks yet again. Tratnik is on his wheel with Denmark and Belgium chasing. 

No major splits but that move has strung the entire race out and we could see gaps over the top. 

115km to go

Bjerg just moves to the front and starts to set the pace with Jack Bauer on his rear wheel. No one team has made the difference but France have constantly tried to break things up. 

And now Tim Declercq (Belgium) takes over and there's a crash for John Degenkolb. Honore is also involved. 

There's no waiting at this point and Tim Declercq (Belgium) puts the hammer down and he's got the entire race hanging on for dear life. 

Belgium, in fact, hit the front with numbers as Slovenia, France and Sagan tuck in. Sagan looks really good.

Sint-Antoniusberg time and Belgium lead the race through Declercq as Turgis comes through and takes another turn for France. Mohoric, Pogacar and Roglic are riding together just to the right, and now Kung moves up as well. 

If you miss a split at this point it could be game over.

Mark Cavendish has abandoned. Apparently Hirschi is out of the race but I've not seen that confirmed yet.

Ewan is still with us but right near the back of the peloton with a teammate on his wheel. 107km to go.

Through the city of Leuven and Belgium are starting to take control of the race with all of their remaining riders on the front. Declercq and Lampaert are trading turns and they've stopped the constant attacks from the likes of France. We're about to hit another one of those short, punchy climbs. 

Declercq has gone just as we hit the Keizersberg. Haas has pulled over but he's done a really good shift for his team today too.

Langeveld has been dropped. 

Lampaert is now increasing the pace with Dylan Teuns on his wheel with 104km to go. 

Yves Lampaert has a huge job in his hands now but Mohoric is sitting in third wheel with a gaggle of Danish riders are close by as we take on the Decouxlaan with 103km to go.

Lampaert is causing some major problems with clutches of riders starting to drop off. Ewan is in trouble. 

Gaviria is dropped too. 

Giacomo Nizzolo is still in contention with Colbrelli for Italy. 

Ewan has no team support so it's all about Matthews from now on. The BikeExchange rider is still within this main peloton. 

Onto the Wijnpers and Campenaerts lifts the pace and it's all Belgium on the front with 101km to go before Benoot takes over.

We could have about 60 riders left in contention by the time we crest the top of the climb as Golas and Connor Swift are dropped. 

Campenaerts just eases the bunch over the top of the climb as Benoot takes a pull. Roglic is moving on the other side as Colbrelli gobbles down some food. 

It looks like Connor Swift has made it back on the descent. He's riding really well today.

Tim Declercq has made it back and so too has Ewan. 

Meanwhile Haas is pulling wheelies for the crowd on the climb. Class act. 

Van der Poe is still in contention but he's right at the back of the bunch as Tim Declercq leads us onto the Sint-Antoniusberg with 97km to go.

And Sint-Antoniusberg 

And we hit the Sint-Antoniusberg with Belgium in control but Poland have moved up with Kwiatkowski in contention.

96km to go

Ewan remains at the back of the bunch, and is holding on at this point as we cross the finish line once more.

Alaphilippe is right near the back as Ewan moves up just a few places. The defending champion is still at the back with van der Poel as they head through the feedzone. 

94km to go

And Nils Politt has made a move off the front but his gap is just a couple of seconds.

92km to go and Cortina has attacked and Evenepoel leads the chase. 

This has caused a split and Hayter is there along with about a dozen riders.

90km to go

There's a regrouping but then another split with 10 riders clear. Cortina is there, Evenepoel of course, Tratnik, Stannard and others. The gap is about 10 seconds. 

The ten leaders hit the Decouxlaan and the gap is about 15 seconds with Great Britain chasing. 

Politt is in the break too.  Madouas, van Baarle, Powless too. This is a really dangerous group with the gap at 18 seconds. 

Evenepoel, Madouas, Van Baarle, Hoelgaard, Bagioli, Powless, Politt, Tratnik, Würtz Schmidt are in the move. Two more are there. 

The gap is at 24 seconds as we hit Wijnpers and Evenepoel lifts the pace and the gap is at 30 seconds. Great Britain are chasing but do they have the firepower?

GB might lose Hayter if they commit to this chase. It's a risk. Will Poland help? 

Matthews is moving up nicely as Connor Swift cracks. 

Jake Stewart is leading the chase but the gap is at 33 seconds. 

Hayter is second wheel and it's going to be next man up for Pidcock's team. 

Great Britain do have the peloton strung out but the gap is still 31 seconds with 84km to go.

83km to go

Break confirmed: Evenepoel, Van Baarle, Politt, Powless, Tiller, Madouas, Tratnik, Bagioli, Garcia Cortina, Wurtz Schmidt, Stannard. The gap is at 33 seconds.

We've not seen anything from van der Poel but he's still in contention and he wouldn't be here just to ride around. Right now he's just hanging around near the back as the gap to the break goes out to 35 seconds. 

Sagan has dropped back for some fresh bottles as the French now attack again from the bunch. 

Belgium just chase him down and then ease up and then France attack again with 35 seconds the gap. 

Hirschi has abandoned the race.

Nizzolo is now back with the Italian car to pick up some fuel as the gap holds at 36 seconds. 78km to go. 

To be fair to Evenepoel he's taken a lot of pressure off the Belgian team today, and he's been in every single one of the main moves. 

The British team are back on the front but the gap is only extending to 43 seconds. The riders up the road are: Evenepoel, Van Baarle, Politt, Powless, Tiller, Madouas, Tratnik, Bagioli, Garcia Cortina, Wurtz Schmidt, and Stannard.

Can you afford to give Evenepoel a minute on a course like this?

Simmons, Uran and Pedersen have also abandoned the race.

Denmark are moving up alongside Belgium and France with the peloton down to less than 45 riders. 

Politt is trying to get even more out of Evenepoel at the front of the break and the gap is now at 51 seconds with 74km to go.

Bagioli is a real danger in the break as we see Ewan pull up with cramp. The Australian dug in for as long as possible but it's probably over for him today.

And it finally looks as though Tim Declercq (Belgium) is done for the day. Just the small matter of 200km at the front of the race.

70km to go

Onto the Smeysberg with 70km to go. 

The gap is at 30 seconds so they're within touching distance as Roglic drops to the back. Van Aert is on the front wit teammates around him. 

Cortina and Stannard have been dropped by the break.

Benoit Cosnefroy (France) has attacked once more and it's been marked by Campenaerts with 69km to go.They're both going to ride. That could be really important. 

Now the Belgian has decided not to work and they're caught.

Pidcock is on Pogacar's wheel as Teuns sets the pace with the gap at 36 seconds.

Teuns is chasing the break down and making this hard between the climbs and it's cutting down on the recovery for everyone left in the race as the break hit the Moskesstraat.

The gap is 26 seconds. We're going to see attacks. 

And Kwiatkowski lifts the pace with Van Aert on his wheel. 

Van der Poel is right up there. Sagan too. 

Kristoff is there!

That break is down to just five riders with Evenepoel leading that group at 23 seconds. He has Van Baarle, Madouas, but now Kwiatkowski attacks with 65km to go. No one follows. 

He catches Politt who holds the wheel. 

Slovenia are chasing with Pogacar. 

The race is just 20 seconds apart but Van der Poel came alive on that last climb. He's here to win and it looks like he has the form.

The Kwiatkowski move has been caught with Almeida looking strong. 

63km to go

So the five riders up front have 26 seconds with 63km to go. Evenepoel, Bagioli, Powless, Madouas and van Baarle lead the race.

Kristoff has a couple of riders left in the main group. Again, he's such a fierce competitor. 

The gap though is going out and it's 37 seconds with 62km to go.

Climbing again and Powless sets the pace with the peloton at 36 seconds and Belgium hit the front yet again. 

Lampaert is burying himself for Wout van Aert with Teuns, Benoot, and Campenaert still there. Belgium have the numbers at this stage but they are chasing down a teammate or at least holding Evenepoel at 37 seconds.  

Stuyven is also there for Belgium. He's been quiet but looks comfortable this deep into the race.

We've got about 40 riders left in the main field with 56k to go on the Bekestraat. 

Laporte leads Alaphilippe and now the defending champion goes for it. He has Van Aert on his wheel. 

The defending champion leads up the climb and only a few riders can follow. This has blown the race to pieces. 

Colbrelli is there. Stuyven, Van Aert, Mohoric and Stybar as Pidcock leads a chase. 

Belgium has the numbers with the gap at 17 seconds. Van der Poel is coming back with Pidcock and a few others but that move from Alaphilippe has cut the race to pieces. 

Madouas needs to stop working as Alaphilippe goes again with Pidcock and a few others back in contention. Where is Pogacar ? Nizzolo is there with Colbrelli though.

The Evenepoel group is just 8 seconds down and the Danes are being forced to chase. 

The Danes are full throttle with Asgreen leading the chase with 55km to go. 

The front five are close to being caught and Italy will have Colbrelli, Bagioli and Nizzolo. That's a really strong trio.

53km to go

The Evenepoel and Van Aert groups merge with 53km to go.

The Asgreen/Sagan group aren't too far behind, it's just a few seconds. 

But up front it's Evenepoel leading the charge with the gap at 12 seconds. 

Sagan is being forced to help with the chase.

It looks like Valgren has made it to the front group with 51km to goo but the gap to Sagan/Pogacar is at 13 seconds. 

Powless is still there and riding really well as Evenepoel continues to lead the front group. Italy are looking as though they're in a really good position though. 

49km to go

Portugal and Pogacar are trying to make up the lost ground but with Evenepoel setting the pace the gap is only extending. The gap is now at 21 seconds. Matthews has missed the move too. 

And now we climb the Smeysberg. Here's our front group:

Alaphilippe, Madouas, Sénéchal, Evenepoel, Stuyven, Van Aert, Mohoric, Colbrelli, Bagioli, Nizzolo, Pidcock, Van Baarle, Van der Poel, Hoelgaard, Powless, Stybar, Valgren.

And a huge attack from Alaphilippe. Huge acceleration from the defending champion and only Colbrelli can match him. The Italian is just in ludicrous form this year. 

The Belgians are dragging the two leaders back with Van Aert and Stuyven taking turns. Colbrelli is refusing to come through but finally takes a turn.

The two leaders are caught with 47km to go and the leaders have 45 seconds. How many bullets does Alaphilippe have left? He's used two already. 

The riders still  at the front of the race. The winner is likely to come from these names:

Alaphilippe, Madouas, Sénéchal, Evenepoel, Stuyven, Van Aert, Mohoric, Colbrelli, Bagioli, Nizzolo, Pidcock, Van Baarle, Van der Poel, Hoelgaard, Powless, Stybar, Valgren.

And now Evenepoel is back on the front and setting the pace with 45km to go. The young Belgian has been sensational today, and doesn't look like he's near the limit yet.

The chase group of Pogacar, Matthews, and Sagan look spent. 

Alaphilippe is at the back of the group and on van der Poel's wheel with the gap to the second group now at 58 seconds. 

Pick a winner, there are no weak links in the lead group: Alaphilippe, Madouas, Sénéchal, Evenepoel, Stuyven, Van Aert, Mohoric, Colbrelli, Bagioli, Nizzolo, Pidcock, Van Baarle, Van der Poel, Hoelgaard, Powless, Stybar, Valgren

Italy are a huge threat at this point with three riders and no need to commit. They've probably got two of the three fastest riders for the sprint too.

Evenepoel has been on the front most of the day and he's still dragging the lead group along with 38km to go. 

Alaphilippe, Madouas, Sénéchal, Evenepoel, Stuyven, Van Aert, Mohoric, Colbrelli, Bagioli, Nizzolo, Pidcock, Van Baarle, Van der Poel, Hoelgaard, Powless, Stybar, Valgren still at the front as we head into the final 50 minutes or so of racing. The defending champion drops back to talk with Voeckler in the French team car with 36km to go.

Stybar looks so dangerous too, alongside Pidcock. Valgren, also without teammates, has to be watched like a hawk. 

Onto Sint-Antoniusberg and Evenepoel leads the front group onto the climb. We have two laps, 32km to go. 

And it's Evenepoel who leads over the finish line with two laps to go. The winner comes from this group - with Sagan and company at 1'46. 

Evenepoel is relentless, he's been on the front for so long today and he's totally committed himself for Wout van Aert. 28km to go and we're coming into the penultimate set of climbs. 

What does Evenepoel have left in the tank because he's starting to look on the limit at this point. 

The riders in the front group:

Alaphilippe, Madouas, Sénéchal, Evenepoel, Stuyven, Van Aert, Mohoric, Colbrelli, Bagioli, Nizzolo, Pidcock, Van Baarle, Van der Poel, Hoelgaard, Powless, Stybar, and Valgren.

And Evenepoel slips back with 26km to go. He's done as Bagioli takes over at the front.

Stuyven has to do the heavy lifting for Van Aert but Italy now have numerical advantage and start to set the pace.

A few gaps are being created because riders are missing turns.

France have three riders too, of course as Alaphilippe sits right at the back and just waits with 24km to go.

And now Madouas has kicked clear but Bagioli is going after him. All back together. 

Nizzolo is now on the front and setting the pace with Stybar on his wheel but the pace isn't high. 

Italy of course were in big trouble earlier in the race but they've turned the tables and have three riders in the final group as we head into the final 22km of this world championships. 

21km to go

Now France lift the pace on Wijnpers with Madouas setting him up and with 21km to go Alaphilippe has gone clear. 

He has a gap, it's just a few seconds but he has a gap as Wout Van Aert leads the chase. 

Stuyven goes off the front with Colbrelli and Pidcock and they're going to catch Alaphilippe with 20km to go.

The catch is made but van der Poel and Van Aert are off the back and looking at each other. 

Alaphilippe goes again with 19km to go and Powless and Colbrelli go with him. 

Mohoric has cracked.

Nizzolo and Colbrelli are in the front group with Alaphilippe and Powless. 

Van Aert then brings them back together. 

Nizzolo is back on the front with 17km to go and Alaphilippe goes again on Sint-Antoniusberg. 

This time he has a gap!

17km to go

Julian Alaphilippe is clear with 17km to go. Can he pull off another incredible win?

Van Baarle, Valgren, Stuyven and Powless are in the second group but Alaphilppe has a small gap with just over a lap to go. All his cards are on the table now.

Colbrelli attacks from behind. 

Alaphilipphe has 10 seconds with a lap to go. Powless is second on the road. 

Julian Alaphilippe (France) has 12 seconds with 14.6km to go. It looks like van Aert and van der Poel are out of this. 

Stuyven, Van Baarle, Valgren and Powless are at 12 seconds. 

Alaphilippe has put in so many significant attacks so far and he's just holding a 12 second lead with 13.7km to go. This is far from over. 

The gap is holding at 12 seconds but the chase are working well together. Powless is doing a lot of work. 

15 seconds now for Julian Alaphilippe (France) with 12.5km to go.

Van der Poel and Van Aert are at 33 seconds! 

12 seconds, the gap is coming down and Alaphilippe still has several climbs to come. 

Stuyven shakes his legs but we've got a long way to go before the sprint.

Alaphilippe is getting a few boos from the local fans but all he will care about is the final 10.8km. The Keizersberg starts now and the gap is just 8 seconds!

Powless has attacked!

The gap is 11 seconds as Colbrelli attacks from the third group. 

11 seconds still for Alaphilippe. Can he take another win? 

Now Stuyven kicks but the four chasers need to work together. The gap is back out to 15 seconds. The third group are at 28 seconds. 

Alaphilippe so good through the corners. The gap is 14 seconds with 9.2km to go. 

The Frenchman starts the Decouxlaan with 15 seconds. 

8.7km to go.

Van der Poel and company are at 40 seconds. This is down to five riders to decide the rainbow jersey. 

18 seconds now for Alaphilippe with 8.1km to go.

20 seconds now for Julian Alaphilippe. The gap was just 8 seconds at one point.

23 seconds now with 7.5km to go as Julian Alaphillippe looks back. He has a winning gap now but can he really hang on?

28 seconds and the Frenchman allows himself a nod towards the time keeper. 6.4km to go.

Onto Wijnpers and Julian Alaphilippe (France) dances on the pedals as he comes out of the saddle. Valgren attacks from the back and Stuyven goes after him.

Powless has cracked.

Down the road and Pidcock has attacked.

But up the road and Julian Alaphilippe (France) has 5km to go. He has 28 seconds on Valgren and Stuyven. 

Van Baarle makes it three chasers. 

The chasing trio are racing for silver now as Julian Alaphilippe (France) holds a 27 gap with 4.2km to go.

Powless comes back too, such a gutsy ride from the young American.

And Powless even attacks, knowing that he can't win the sprint. 

3.1km to go and Julian Alaphilippe (France) has 28 seconds but Valgren has attacked. 

The chasing four are attacking each other though, and they're not pulling Alaphilippe back with the gap holding at 27 seconds.

Game over, they're looking at each other now and Pidcock might even come back to them as up the road Julian Alaphilippe (France) starts the final climb of the day.

Julian Alaphilippe (France) is sprinting up the climb with 1.7km to go. He's going to win back to back world titles. 

The French have been incredible today, from start to finish. 

1.2km to go for Julian Alaphilippe (France).

He's shaking his head. He can't believe it. 

Julian Alaphilippe (France) wins the 2021 men's elite road race at the UCI Road World Championships. 

That was a near perfect performance from the entire French team. 

Here comes the sprint for second....

That's so so close. Photo finish needed. 

Powless was fifth, and Pidcock sixth. 

I think that Stuyven missed out on the medals.

Julian Alaphilippe (France) is mobbed at the finish with Stybar and van der Poel both congratulating him.  

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Julian Alaphilippe (France) 5:56:34
2Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands) 0:00:32
3Michael Valgren Hundahl (Denmark)
4Jasper Stuyven (Belgium)
5Neilson Powless (United States Of America)
6Thomas Pidcock (Great Britain) 0:00:49
7Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) 0:01:06
8Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) 0:01:18
9Florian Senechal (France)
10Sonny Colbrelli (Italy)

So Van Baarle and Valgren take the final steps on the podium. Incredible race through and through.

Here is our report, photos and results.

2021 UCI World Championships Flanders Men Elite Road Race Antwerp Leuven 2683 km 26092021 Julian Alaphilippe France photo POOL Kristoff RamonBettiniPhoto2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Tom Pidcock speaks:

“It was cat and mouse. I thought that it would be on this circuit. There’s no climb that’s hard enough to just ride off, apart from with Alaphilippe. I was just saving it for one attack and I waited to long and I missed the train. Alaphilippe did an unreal ride and fair play to him."

Thanks for joining us today. Our complete Worlds coverage can be found just here

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