Alaphilippe retains his world title

Sunday 26 September 2021

Julian Alaphilippe can add another chapter to his story of the rainbow jersey. After a strong final in which the Frenchman attacked multiple times, he won his second consecutive world title solo. Silver went to the Dutchman Van Baarle. The Dane Valgren took third place on the podium.

To round off the 100th anniversary of the UCI Road World Championships, the elite men set off from Grote Markt in Antwerp on a circuit spanning 268.3 km, incorporating 42 climbs. Eight riders joined forces for an early breakaway that would endure around 100 km. The peloton let them go, allowing the lead group to build up a 6-minute lead.

After a brief introduction to the local circuit in Leuven, the riders headed to the Flandrien Loop for the first time. Cosnefroy, Evenepoel and Cort Nielsen were able to break free from the peloton during the first passage on Smeysberg, 180 km from the finish line. On the S-bend in Overijse - Taymansstraat, a small group, including Asgreen and Roglic, managed to make the crossing. A group of 15 riders formed behind them. Italy did not have a man in the group, so the squadra had to work hard.

With differences of less than 30 seconds, the groups started four loops of the city circuit in Leuven. The short, arduous climbs followed in quick succession. The peloton automatically thinned out. With 92 kilometres to go, Evenepoel once again made himself heard. The young Belgian slipped through with a small group that included the German Politt, the Spaniard Garcia Cortina and the Dutchman Van Baarle. This time, Italy also had a representative at the front, Bagioli. With a lead of about half a minute, the men headed once more towards the Flandrien Loop.

It wasn’t until Bekestraat that the favourites burst into action. Title defender Alaphilippe accelerated with Van Aert and Stuyven. They were joined by European champion Colbrelli, Van der Poel and Pidcock. They soon reached Evenepoel’s group. The fourth and final passage on Smeysberg provided another spectacle. Again it was Alaphilippe who supplied the fireworks. Only Colbrelli could follow. This time it was up to the Belgians to rectify the situation, which they did. The group of favourites raced towards the final 2.5 laps on the city loop in Leuven where ecstatic fans awaited the finale.

At the penultimate passage on Keizersberg, Evenepoel, who had delivered an impressive performance, pulled over. A little later it was the French who accelerated again. Alaphilippe was handed the red carpet by Madouas and launched on to Wijnpers. For the first time, Van Aert had to do the hard work himself, but was not able to catch Alaphilippe. When compatriot Stuyven went on the attack, the Belgian leading man closed the gap. Stuyven, Pidcock and Colbrelli were on the heels of Alaphilippe. On the ascending stretches towards the penultimate passage on Sint-Antoniusberg it was again Alaphilippe who saw his chance. He put the entire group under pressure.

This time with success. In the chase it was Stuyven, Van Baarle, Valgren and Powless who slipped away from the Van Aert – Van der Poel group and went after Alaphilippe, starting the final lap 10 seconds behind him. Now, it was all down to who would take second place. Alaphilippe held up well on the climbs during the last round and rode solo towards the finish on Geldenaaksevest.

In the sprint for second place it was the Dutchman Van Baarle who won. The Dane Valgren took bronze, which meant Stuyven just missed a place on the podium. But it was Alaphilippe who triumphed in Leuven. He picked up gold for the second year in a row and can call himself world champion for another year.