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Wonderkid Evenepoel underscores greatness with rainbow jersey at Wollongong 2022

Remco adds world championship to 2022 Vuelta and Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Four years after he took the Junior men’s double world championship in Innsbruck, Austria, 13 days after he won the 77th Vuelta a España and a week after he earned bronze in the Worlds time trial, Remco Evenepoel took his first elite road title at Wollongong 2022 in New South Wales, Australia on Sunday. Solo for the last 25 km, Remco is the seventh youngest elite men’s world champion and the youngest since Lance Armstrong in 1993. Canada’s Pier-André Coté was in the day’s breakaway, but it was Nickolas Zukowsky who was top Canadian in 36th.

The Course

Like the elite and U23 women, the elite men started north of Wollongong in Helensburg and after 27.5 km entered a 34-km loop with the mighty Mount Keira, an 8-km long climb that looms over Wollongong. Then there were eleven laps of the 17-km city circuit, each containing the 1.1-km, 8.6 percent Mount Pleasant climb. The total was 266.9 km. It was a lovely day.

The Canadian contingent was Derek Gee, Matteo Dal-Cin, Nickolas Zukowsky and national champion Pier-André Coté.

Reigning champion Alaphilippe chats with Vatican representative Rien Schuurhuis at the start line

Matteo Dal-Cin was in the first move as soon as the flag dropped.

Matteo Dal-Cin in the first breakaway of the race.

Coté joined the second breakaway. A massive natural break allowed Coté’s 12-rider gang to pull out more time.

Pier-André Coté was part of the next breakaway.

Thirty-two kilometres into the race, before Mount Keira, Mathieu van der Poel, who had a very unsettled night, abandoned the race.

France started to up the pace on Mount Keira, deflating the Coté break’s lead. A select group of 50 including Wout Van Aert, Tadej Pogačar, Romain Bardet and Jai Hindley destroyed the peloton. By the bottom of Keira’s descent, the Coté bunch’s gap was 3:30. With the breach between Van Aert-Pogačar and Julian Alaphillipe and Evenepoel’s mob at 2:00, Germany started to work in Group 3.

The Wollongong circuits began, 200 kilometres still on the horizon. Ben O’Connor led a quintet that flared away from the Van Aert-Pogačar group. Lap 2 saw Germany’s work pay off as Alaphilippe and Evenepoel reunited with Van Aert and Pogačar. O’Connor’s move and Coté’s escape were still ahead. By the start of Lap 3 the fugitives were 7:00 up the road. O’Connor and company reinforced the breakaway.

On Lap 9, with the 16-man breakaway getting closer, Evenepoel, Hindley, Zukowsky, Alexey Lutsenko and Bardet bridged over to make a very dangerous escape group.

Things got serious back in the peloton as it took on Mount Pleasant and shrank the gap. With 40 km remaining, the lead was 1:09. Evenepoel and Lutsenko attacked heading into the penultimate lap.

Evenepoel and Lutsenko shake loose on the penultimate lap.

The Belgian dropped the Kazakh on Mount Pleasant. He had 25 km to roll and when he heard the bell, his closest pursuer was +1:09.

Lutsenko couldn’t hold off a wee chase containing a Dane, Italian and Swiss. Surely this would be the group that would fight for the podium. But the quartet was cagey at the start of the final kilometre, allowing a bunch of other riders into the mix. Christophe Laporte and Michael Matthews rounded out the podium.

Wollongong 2022 Elite Men’s Road Race
Gold) Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) 6:16
Silver) Christophe Laporte (France) +2:21
Bronze) Michael Matthews (Australia) s.t.
36) Nickolas Zukowsky (Canada) +3:01