The Belgian finished in second place behind Richard Carapaz of Ecuador, who is widely credited as the deserved winner producing a late burst of energy in what is being described as a ‘thrilling road race’.
Van Aert, who many hoped would win gold, beat Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar for second place in the final sprint at the Fuji International Speedway.
In a post-race interview Van Aert told newsmen: “I had the legs to win, but Carapaz was too strong. He is a fine champion.”
Just like at the world championships in Imola Van Aert is bringing home the silver. He survived the Mikuni Pass together with the best but in the final stages of the race had to pay the price of being the hot favourite, at least in Belgium.
“It was the right tactic, to keep riding at my own pace on the Mikuni. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to land silver for the boys that worked so hard. I believe I gave everything I could.”
“Nobody was streets ahead but I knew after Mikuni I would have a hard time. Pogacar and I were targeted. Carapaz was too strong. He is a fine champion.”
Reuters writes: Carapaz was joined on a late attack by American Brandon McNulty but with the chasing pack reeling them in he went alone on the racing circuit finish and soloed to victory.
Belgium's Wout Van Aert took the silver medal as he beat Slovenia's Tour de France champion Pogacar by the width of a wheel rim.
Carapaz is only the second Ecuadorean to win an Olympic gold after Jefferson Perez in the 20-km walk at Atlanta 1996.