The week-long schedule of road cycling World Championships started with the time trial events that saw competitors race against the clock from Knokke Heist to Bruges. In the elite men’s event on Sunday, two Belgian favourites were pipped to the top spot by Italy’s Filippo Ganna.
The 43.3 km course was fast and flat and the eventual winning time was a record-breaking 54.37 kph – a speed that would also have broken many speed limits along the course had the roads not been closed to traffic for the race.
Notably, the weekend marked the first time that spectators had been permitted to attend races since February 2020. With cycling being such a popular sport, huge crowds gathered along the course – particularly at the start and finish lines that made for an electric atmosphere.
The drama was heightened as Belgian Remco Evenepoel delighted home crowds by setting a searing time early on that subsequent riders were unable to beat. In fact, Evenepoel occupied the hot seat all the time until the penultimate rider – his compatriot Wout van Aert – bettered his time by almost 38 seconds.
However, as is customary, the previous year’s champion Filippo Ganna was last to start, setting off 90 seconds behind van Aert. Belgian fans held their breath as the reigning World Champion powered along the course. In the end, Ganna crossed the line just 5.37 seconds up on van Aert – heartbreak for Belgium who had to settle for second and third place.
The 30.3 km course was tackled by the world’s fastest women on Monday and from the outset was a battle between two Dutch favourites: Ellen Van Dijk and Annamiek Van Vleuten.
The former has an illustrious history at World Championship events being a three-time winner in the road event and having won the individual time trial event in 2013. Certainly, the longevity of Van Dijk’s career is impressive and this year she set a phenomenal time of 36:05 minutes.
Despite the best efforts of all subsequent riders – notably Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser who looked threatening but completed the course 10 seconds off the top time – Van Dijk’s time stood all the way to the final competitor Van Vleuten, who had won the event in 2018 and 2019.
Yet although Van Vleuten had better odds going into the race, she was unable to beat an ecstatic Van Dijk and had to settle for third place.
Men Under 23 Individual Time Trial: 1. Johan Price-Pejtersen (Denmark) 2. Luke Plapp (Australia) 3. Florian Vermeersch (Belgium)
Women Junior Individual Time Trial: 1. Alena Ivanchenko (Russia) 2. Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain) 3. Antonia Niedermaier (Germany)
Men Junior Individual Time Trial: 1. Gustav Wang (Denmark) 2. Joshua Tarling (Great Britain) 3. Alec Segaert (Belgium)
Today (Wednesday 22 September) will be the team time trial mixed relay before a rest day on Thursday and then the road race events starting on Friday and culminating in the Elite Men’s event on Sunday.