WOLLONGONG, Australia (AP) — A fortnight after becoming Belgium’s first Grand Tour winner in 44 years, Remco Evenepoel became his country’s first men’s elite road race world champion in a decade to cap his breakthrough season.
Evenepoel won the Spanish Vuelta two weeks ago and was again dominant in Sunday’s 266.9-kilometer (166-mile) race as he broke away with 25 kilometers left and powered to an emphatic win.
The 22-year-old Evenepoel spread his arms in celebration as he crossed the line on his own to became the first Belgian man since Philippe Gilbert in 2012 to win a cycling worlds road race.
French rider Christophe Laporte took second after winning the bunch sprint behind Evenepoel. Australian Michael Matthews won bronze as the chasing pack finished 2 minutes, 21 seconds behind the Belgian.
The race featured 12 laps of a 17-kilometer finishing circuit at Wollongong, a coastal city south of Sydney.
Early breaks gained as much as eight minutes on the peloton, but they never looked threatening.
Inside the last 40 kilometers the pace quickened and the front group started to pull away. On the second last lap Evenepoel and Kazakh rider Alexey Lutsenko broke clear and built a small advantage.
The Belgian star, who earlier this season won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic, pushed clear of Lutsenko on the second-last ascent of the tough Mt Pleasant climb and was never challenged on his way to a dominant victory.
Compatriot Wout Van Aert just missed out on the podium, finishing fourth.
Before the race news emerged that Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel, one of the title favorites for the men’s race, had been arrested and charged by police for an alleged assault at the team’s hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Police took van der Poel into custody after an incident at the team hotel reportedly involving an argument with two teenage girls as he was trying to sleep.
Van der Poel was cleared to start the race but pulled out shortly after.
Dutch-born rider Rien Schuurhuis, who was competing for the Vatican’s new team, didn’t finish after attracting attention from UCI officials and race favorites at the start. Schuurhuis was active in the early phases of the race, unsuccessfully attempting to bridge across to the main breakaway group.
On Saturday, 39-year-old Annemiek van Vleuten overcame an elbow fracture sustained three days earlier to win her second world road race title with an attack in the last 600 meters that caught the other eight leaders napping.