The flat course and the lack of wind allowed a very fast race on an overcast day in West Flanders. Remco Evenepoel had started early and set the best time early on. From the hot seat, he watched how his challengers would perform. The real favourites for the Gold started behind him: would the 21-year-old be able to grab a medal?
The two top favourites for the Gold, Wout Van Aert (27) and defending time trial champion Filippo Ganna (25) of Italy, departed as the last-but-one and last rider respectively. Whereas Van Aert had the top time in the first intermediate point, Ganna won 6 seconds back in the second part along the bucolic Damse Vaart canal to come almost level at intermediate 2.
21-year-old Remco Evenepoel could sit and watch from the hot seat
Ganna starts 'slowly' to beat Van Aert in the final part
Ganna still had something extra in the tank and gained some more seconds on Van Aert in the final part to take the world title with 5 seconds. It was silver for Van Aert again (after Olympic silver in the road race in Tokyo this summer and in last year's road race and time trial race in the World Championships in Italy; last winter he also took the silver in the cyclocross World Championships).
Remco Evenepoel, only 5th at the first intermediate, moved to third place as Stefan Küng of Switzerland and Kasper Asgreen of Denmark lost time in the middle part of the race. It was an afternoon of mixed feelings for Belgian fans: two Belgian riders on the podium, but the top spot was taken by an Italian.
Ganna made the difference in the final part, finishing just 5 seconds ahead of Van Aert
Ganna: "Sorry I am spoiling the party for the Belgians"
Speaking after the race, Ganna - who had an average speed of 54.37 kilometres per hour - said that he had some doubts after the European Championships (where he was beaten by Küng) but he soon experienced that his legs felt very good. He also had the feeling he was improving over the past week.
"Sorry I am spoiling the party for the home riders Wout Van Aert and Remco Evenepoel. I have a lot of respect for them. But this morning I woke up with the dream of winning Gold again."
Watch the video with a longer interview here:
Van Aert: "Big disappointment"
Wout Van Aert was very disappointed after the race. "I know that Filippo Ganna is a real time trial specialist, more than I am, and that I rode a good race, but still. This is one silver medal too many. Maybe I should count my collection of silver medals at home - or maybe I shouldn't, because it won't make me happy."
Remco Evenepoel said that he had dreamed of two Belgian riders on the podium, but not with a different rider on the highest step.
This is one silver medal too many