Cyclist Wout van Aert wins first Belgian Olympic medal in Tokyo
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Cyclist Wout van Aert wins first Belgian Olympic medal in Tokyo

Wout van Aert at the Olympics. Credit: Belga

Cyclist Wout van Aert won silver at the Olympic road race in Japan on Saturday, giving Belgium its first medal in Tokyo.

The winner of the 234-km race between Musashinonomori Park and Fuji International Speedway Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, who remained alone at the head of the pack after mounting his attack about six kilometres from the finish.

Five years ago, during the last Games, it was also a cyclist – Greg Van Avermaet – who won Belgium its first Olympic medal of the competition after he won gold at the beach of Copacabana.

“It’s a special feeling. I am happy with that silver medal. If you look at the course, I could not do much else. I could have just as well been fifth and then it is nice to go home with a medal,” van Aert said. 

Van Aert’s medal is Belgium’s 149th in the history of the Olympics and its 54th silver.

The Belgian cyclist, who is aged 26 and was one of the top favourites during this year’s Olympics, said he had the feeling he was being targeted by the other riders following the ride.

“But that didn’t frustrate me, I could predict it beforehand. I knew that if I got over that climb (Mikuni Pass), it wouldn’t be easy. It was a barrage of attacks,” he said.

Van Aert also finished second at last year’s World Championships twice, but he was not as happy with those victories.

“Now, it’s a completely different feeling,” he said. “This is something unique. It’s definitely a different feeling.”

Bronze went to Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, two weeks after his win at the Tour de France.

Van Avermaet, the 2016 Rio Olympics champion, pulled out of the race 53km from the finish on Saturday.

The Brussels Times