2021 World Championships in Flanders: Road Races

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Their main flaws that could have been avoided are IMHO the following:

• Not saving Remco as your plan B: Everyone already said it. Period. No more explanation needed. How would that scenario have come out, we will never know.
• Like Chris Horner said, they didn't need to blow the race to pieces since they had a big chance for winning the sprint in a reduced field. It had some risk and it would have made for a boring race but they would have had more chance of winning.
On point number one, perhaps they didn't see Remco as plan B because he actually hardly has experience in classics and long distance races. Together with the lack of sprint, they may have concluded that he was too much of a gamble to really use as backup. Anyway, I agree that they didn't "use" him as they should/could have.

As for the second point: before the race, Jan Bakelants said that controlling the race and going for a sprint from a group of 40 or so would be Belgium's safest bet. I think so too, but I assume that they didn't do that because it was a race on home soil. They wanted to show dominance, provide spectacle, and I guess for the riders themselves, it was pretty hard not to get carried away by the crowds. Maybe that's also part of the explanation why Evenepoel went so hard so early. Racing conservatively is hard when everyone is shouting you on and you feel their expectations.
 
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On point number one, perhaps they didn't see Remco as plan B because he actually hardly has experience in classics and long distance races. Together with the lack of sprint, they may have concluded that he was too much of a gamble to really use as backup. Anyway, I agree that they didn't "use" him as they should/could have.

As for the second point: before the race, Jan Bakelants said that controlling the race and going for a sprint from a group of 40 or so would be Belgium's safest bet. I think so too, but I assume that they didn't do that because it was a race on home soil. They wanted to show dominance, provide spectacle, and I guess for the riders themselves, it was pretty hard not to get carried away by the crowds. Maybe that's also part of the explanation why Evenepoel went so hard so early. Racing conservatively is hard when everyone is shouting you on and you feel their expectations.
You dont't put the most talented young Belgian in the form of late he has shown on donkey duty from 200 k out, just because you have questions over his prospect of making it till the end at the front. This way you only seal his fate. Not very imaginative. Rather you keep him in the game to demonstrate his mettle and start using him at 50 k out. Even if he doesn't have the staying power to challenge for the win, he still will be more useful longer than having him blow up before the decisive moves take place. There is a limit to "erring on the side of caution."

They didn't control the race to set Van Aert up for the sprint, because they expended Evenepoel long before he could have been actually useful in that regard. Plus Van Aert didn't have the legs and Belgium had no other options once it was too late.
 
Here are my 1.5 cents. There was a lot of grousing before the WC that the course was too easy and would not make a selection possible, thus leading to a boring finale featuring a reduced bunch sprint. On the face of it, these complaints seemed to have considerable merit. Yes, the bergs were not very long, the cobbles not too fearsome, etc., etc.

Clearly, the Belgian race strategy was based on this same perception. The French team saw it, too, but rather than accept the script as written, Tommy's squad made the race was as hard as possible, for as long as possible. Go back and look at the tape. There is a moment (around 70km to go, IFR) that the Anglophone commentators missed, when JA turns to Cosnefroy and the latter takes off uphill like a rocket. This on top of the earlier French attacks and hard, hard tempo riding.

We get tired of hearing that old saw, "the riders make the race." Here is a good illustration of its staying power. On paper, the course was long but generally meh, but add a powerful and motivated squad determined to ride hard all day long and things look very different. And that is exactly what happened.

Belgium largely waited for the race to come to them, while the French took the opposite tack and "made the race" from the early going. Apparently, Cavagna was to open the assault even earlier but was delayed by a puncture.. OK, Alaphilippe's attacks were ahead of the planned schedule, but the fact that they were so effective and, ultimately, successful validates the French approach.

Agree or not, I hope we can at least all acknowledge what a fantastic race this was, with a great (defending) champion seizing the moment after some excellent team planning, tactics, and implementation.
 
Here are my 1.5 cents. There was a lot of grousing before the WC that the course was too easy and would not make a selection possible, thus leading to a boring finale featuring a reduced bunch sprint. On the face of it, these complaints seemed to have considerable merit. Yes, the bergs were not very long, the cobbles not too fearsome, etc., etc.

Clearly, the Belgian race strategy was based on this same perception. The French team saw it, too, but rather than accept the script as written, Tommy's squad made the race was as hard as possible, for as long as possible. Go back and look at the tape. There is a moment (around 70km to go, IFR) that the Anglophone commentators missed, when JA turns to Cosnefroy and the latter takes off uphill like a rocket. This on top of the earlier French attacks and hard, hard tempo riding.

We get tired of hearing that old saw, "the riders make the race." Here is a good illustration of its staying power. On paper, the course was long but generally meh, but add a powerful and motivated squad determined to ride hard all day long and things look very different. And that is exactly what happened.

Belgium largely waited for the race to come to them, while the French took the opposite tack and "made the race" from the early going. Apparently, Cavagna was to open the assault even earlier but was delayed by a puncture.. OK, Alaphilippe's attacks were ahead of the planned schedule, but the fact that they were so effective and, ultimately, successful validates the French approach.

Agree or not, I hope we can at least all acknowledge what a fantastic race this was, with a great (defending) champion seizing the moment after some excellent team planning, tactics, and implementation.
Sure but you have to have an Alaphilippe in sensational form to pull the French tactic off. The signs were written on the wall the moment France drilled it from 200k out. Belgium should have recognized, needed to wake up, dial it back till 50k out then deploy Evenepoel/Stuevens with relentless audacity. The rest as they say is history.
 
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I don't want to downgrade Alaphilippe's win, but the "there was nothing we could do, he was the strongest and would have won anyway" narrative isn't correct in my eyes, similar to how it wasn't last year. He probably was the best on these last short climbs. He was also the one to take the risk and attack. I'm not convinced that actually someone like van Baarle (amazing rider!) was closest to being able to follow, and the interviews don't really sound like it. Also, Alaphilippe just took a few seconds in the end. If there would have been a completely comprehensive chase, even more: if on the Sint-Antonius everybody had taken his attack totally serious, they would have caught him again/ never let him go. But it would have hurt them damn much, and while I'm sure that many couldn't do better, I think some, most of all Pidcock, were just like: "I'm not going to put everything into this and then someone else attacks and that's the winning move".
Well, maybe I will have to rewatch it, because I might be wrong, but I didn't get the impression a win was totally inevitable. He took advantage of the fact that on that day he was better on those climbs than van Aert and van der Poel (who were more a point of orientation), managed to get a few seconds, and then it was a case of one lone attacker / group chase again. The group didn't work badly together, but they weren't perfect either, while Ala just rode all out.
I didn't get this impression watching it. JA was not "probably" the best on those last short climbs he simply was the best - period. As for not taking his attack serious I can't agree. JA attacked what, twice before his third attack stuck? And as the defending world champion and with his long record I am not sure why anyone wouldn't have taken taken his attack totally serious? And if any of those guys were thinking how much it would hurt to close back to JA then they deserved to lose.

Julian was simply too strong and on a different level. Remember they raced 268km on that course at an average speed of 45km/h. And was raced from at least 200km from the finish, it wasn't a procession saving energy.

Tom Pidcock also showed huge strength in the closing kilometers after 260km of incredibly hard racing. He is inexperienced and I am sure felt others should work to bring him back. But after that nobody should ever accuse stories about this guy as hype. I had to remind myself he was the Tokyo MTB gold medalist.

I think WvA just wasn't strong enough on the day for whatever reason. Felt a bit sorry for Evenepoel burying himself like that for nothing. Perhaps Belgium would have been better served by WvA riding in support of him? Certainly he would have been at least as good as Pidcock had he saved himself? But everyone is wise in hindsight.
 
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Here are my 1.5 cents. There was a lot of grousing before the WC that the course was too easy and would not make a selection possible, thus leading to a boring finale featuring a reduced bunch sprint. On the face of it, these complaints seemed to have considerable merit. Yes, the bergs were not very long, the cobbles not too fearsome, etc., etc.

Clearly, the Belgian race strategy was based on this same perception. The French team saw it, too, but rather than accept the script as written, Tommy's squad made the race was as hard as possible, for as long as possible. Go back and look at the tape. There is a moment (around 70km to go, IFR) that the Anglophone commentators missed, when JA turns to Cosnefroy and the latter takes off uphill like a rocket. This on top of the earlier French attacks and hard, hard tempo riding.

We get tired of hearing that old saw, "the riders make the race." Here is a good illustration of its staying power. On paper, the course was long but generally meh, but add a powerful and motivated squad determined to ride hard all day long and things look very different. And that is exactly what happened.

Belgium largely waited for the race to come to them, while the French took the opposite tack and "made the race" from the early going. Apparently, Cavagna was to open the assault even earlier but was delayed by a puncture.. OK, Alaphilippe's attacks were ahead of the planned schedule, but the fact that they were so effective and, ultimately, successful validates the French approach.

Agree or not, I hope we can at least all acknowledge what a fantastic race this was, with a great (defending) champion seizing the moment after some excellent team planning, tactics, and implementation.
Remco's behavior during the race played right into France's hands.

Him chasing early attacks (was he really assigned for this!?) and working hard to make it stick, him burying himself at the front to prevent a bigger peloton to come back (ideal configuration for puncheurs) while Madouas - who had a similar role in the last loops - could rest at the back.
 
I think this was Italy's worst WC under Cassani.
They kept missing meaningful moves and had to waste a lot of energy in the first half of the race. Part of it was bad luck but they were also unprepared for a scenario where attacks would start so early.

That said, I don't think Italy had any chance of winning this race. Hopefully Bagioli keeps improving, because at the moment we're truly missing a fuoriclasse for these one day races.
It may be time for Ulissi to step back from team duties. :p
 
Sure but you have to have an Alaphilipe in sensational form to pull the French tactic off. The signs were written on the wall the moment France drilled it from 200k out. Belgium should have recognized, needed to wake up, dial it back till 50k out then deploy Evenepoel/Stuevens with relentless audacity. The rest as they say is history.
We’ll, they DID have an Alaf in sensational form. But there was no way, even in that form, that Alaf wins the race if he arrives at the finish in the same group as WvA, Colbrelli, vdP, Nizzolo et al. So they had to wear those guys’ legs down on the early climbs so that they couldn’t respond to all the attacks in the final climbs.

No matter how good Alaf’s form was, attacking the way France did from early on was the best way for them to win the race. It just so happened that Remco played into their hands, but that wasn’t so obvious with 35-40km to go.
 
Belgium were very public about being all-in for WVA before the race. Not a tactic I care for much (especially if you're broadcasting it in advance) but it still didn't stop most people making him their five-star favourite and the shortest price betting favourite for a long time. Obviously if WVA wasn't good then they were not going to win

Hard to say whether Remco being in early attacks was planned or not, he was only following other attacks but then riding once there was a gap and at the same time Belgium were at times chasing. If there are no race radios don't expect what you're seeing to make much sense ! As it was, maybe it worked for him (and others like Van Baarle, Madouas, Powless etc) since it ensured he made the split by not having to fight for position before the pivotal cobbled climb and then get up it with the punchy specialists

As usual it would have been a different race without a few crashes. The loss of Pedersen / Honore for Denmark and Trentin / Ballerini for Italy changed the race quite a lot I think
 
I think this was Italy's worst WC under Cassani.
They kept missing meaningful moves and had to waste a lot of energy in the first half of the race. Part of it was bad luck but they were also unprepared for a scenario where attacks would start so early.

That said, I don't think Italy had any chance of winning this race. Hopefully Bagioli keeps improving, because at the moment we're truly missing a fuoriclasse for these one day races.
I think Moscon can be a monument winner and compete on any Worlds course, but he has to get his focus right, and i suspect get away from Ineos. I think he’d already have a couple of classics wins if he’d spent the last 5 years at EF or Trek, let alone if he’d been at Quickstep.

He’s 27 now, and in danger of spending the best years of his whole career helping Bernal and Carapaz minimize their losses to Slovenia.
 
Fair point. and I certain didn't meant to diminish Alaphilippe's form, mental toughness, and sheer flair. I should have added that JA was perhaps the only racer who could turn these short climbs into race-winning moves. Yet, the point still stands, without the French team's execution of the plan, it's more likely he would not have had the same platform from which to attack.
 
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Fair point. and I certain didn't meant to diminish Alaphilippe's form, mental toughness, and sheer flair. I should have added that JA was perhaps the only racer who could turn these short climbs into race-winning moves. Yet, the point still stands, without the French team's execution of the plan, it's more likely he would not have had the same platform from which to attack.
None of this contradicts anything you’ve already said. Alaphilippe was the only rider who could have won that race, that way. And France rode the race the only way that he could have won it.


As for Belgium, google appropriately enough attributes to Napoleon the old saying, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
 
I didn't get this impression watching it. JA was not "probably" the best on those last short climbs he simply was the best - period. As for not taking his attack serious I can't agree. JA attacked what, twice before his third attack stuck? And as the defending world champion and with his long record I am not sure why anyone wouldn't have taken taken his attack totally serious? And if any of those guys were thinking how much it would hurt to close back to JA then they deserved to lose.

Julian was simply too strong and on a different level. Remember they raced 268km on that course at an average speed of 45km/h. And was raced from at least 200km from the finish, it wasn't a procession saving energy.

Tom Pidcock also showed huge strength in the closing kilometers after 260km of incredibly hard racing. He is inexperienced and I am sure felt others should work to bring him back. But after that nobody should ever accuse stories about this guy as hype. I had to remind myself he was the Tokyo MTB gold medalist.

I think WvA just wasn't strong enough on the day for whatever reason. Felt a bit sorry for Evenepoel burying himself like that for nothing. Perhaps Belgium would have been better served by WvA riding in support of him? Certainly he would have been at least as good as Pidcock had he saved himself? But everyone is wise in hindsight.
I rewatched the last 40k, and I think Alaphilippe chose the perfect moment for his attack; he was really well positioned, as he was during his earlier attacks. He went full gas when the others didn't really expect it, they were all processioning up behind Nizzolo - Stuyven and van Baarle took some moments to react, and I don't think it was because they were on their absolute limit, but they were probably pretty tired, alright. I think it wasn't clear for them whether they should feel responsible to react, whether it was worth it to react immediately with many kilometers still ahead. They are also not as punchy as Alaphilippe, but I think they missed those few seconds to a good deal because they weren't glued to Ala's wheel or really prepared for an attack. Powless is the one to react immediately, he's never shy of spending energy, but he doesn't have that punch. He simply couldn't follow in that moment. Then like two seconds later Stuyven reacts and actually puts in an effort and that's when van Baarle reacts, too. With this attack Ala has gained about 5 seconds.
If they then chose to chase without compromises, they would catch him - but of course they don't, he gains again a few seconds and when they cross the finish line for the second -to-last time he's ten seconds away. At that point the chasers still don't really work together, they look behind, drift to the side a bit, to see where the group behind them is... and the group behind is only lead by the Italians, the others don't work of course... and so on.
So, yes, Ala was extremely strong. And his punch on climbs is definitely one of the best, probably only possibly beaten by van der Poel and Pidcock on their best days. But I still don't think he was unbeatable and that there was nothing to be done about it, like when Evenepoel rode away in certain races and just rode everyone off his wheel. Tactics and hesitating played a role, in my eyes, although I acknowledge that everybody was pretty much at the limit and there wasn't more than 2% to be spend. Still, Ala gave almost all of those 2%, and not everyone else might have done that in those moments.
 
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We’ll, they DID have an Alaf in sensational form. But there was no way, even in that form, that Alaf wins the race if he arrives at the finish in the same group as WvA, Colbrelli, vdP, Nizzolo et al. So they had to wear those guys’ legs down on the early climbs so that they couldn’t respond to all the attacks in the final climbs.

No matter how good Alaf’s form was, attacking the way France did from early on was the best way for them to win the race. It just so happened that Remco played into their hands, but that wasn’t so obvious with 35-40km to go.
My point was that since France announced in BOLD letters that Alaphilippe was on fire with their tactics, Belgium should have played a more conservative game. Belgium did not and thus got stomped by the strongest, bestest rider on the day, to only have drunk fans roadside pissing at the Frenchman. Hey, the Belgians know cycling, so how could they have come up with only an amateur script? It positively defies logic.
 
I rewatched the last 40k, and I think Alaphilippe chose the perfect moment for his attack; he was really well positioned, as he was during his earlier attacks. He went full gas when the others didn't really expect it, they were all processioning up behind Nizzolo - Stuyven and van Baarle took some moments to react, and I don't think it was because they were on their absolute limit, but they were probably pretty tired, alright. I think it wasn't clear for them whether they should feel responsible to react, whether it was worth it to react immediately with many kilometers still ahead. They are also not as punchy as Alaphilippe, but I think they missed those few seconds to a good deal because they weren't glued to Ala's wheel or really prepared for an attack. Powless is the one to react immediately, he's never shy of spending energy, but he doesn't have that punch. He simply couldn't follow in that moment. Then like two seconds later Stuyven reacts and actually puts in an effort and that's when van Baarle reacts, too. With this attack Ala has gained about 5 seconds.
If they then chose to chase without compromises, they would catch him - but of course they don't, he gains again a few seconds and when they cross the finish line for the second -to-last time he's ten seconds away. At that point the chasers still don't really work together, they look behind, drift to the side a bit, to see where the group behind them is... and the group behind is only lead by the Italians, the others don't work of course... and so on.
So, yes, Ala was extremely strong. And his punch on climbs is definitely one of the best, probably only possibly beaten by van der Poel and Pidcock on their best days. But I still don't think he was unbeatable and that there was nothing to be done about it, like when Evenepoel rode away in certain races and just rode everyone off his wheel. Tactics and hesitating played a role, in my eyes, although I acknowledge that everybody was pretty much at the limit and there wasn't more than 2% to be spend. Still, Ala gave almost all of those 2%, and not everyone else might have done that in those moments.
In my opinion, they couldn't chase him down, for they did not have the legs. Alaphilippe crucified them. Game over.
 
In my opinion, they couldn't chase him down, for they did not have the legs. Alaphilippe crucified them. Game over.
4v1, all working together, that chasing group would reel Alaphilippe back in, any day. But once he had 10 seconds, nobody was willing to put in the effort to catch him. It’s the same thing we’ve seen with just about every solo escape in a World Tour race this season; unless someone in the group has a teammate willing to sacrifice himself for a leader, the race is over once the attacker gets that gap.
 
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Let's hope it doesn't take another 20 years to have another WC in Belgium.
Let's hope WC will revisit Leuven.
I'm totally exited about the Leuven short circuit, "Kermesse for the elite" I called it. Couldn't be better in my book, better than a RVV-like loop of De Muur, Koppenberg, Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont, etc.
Those small puncheur ramps in Leuven taking it's toll at +250k but still making it close racing and on top of that not making a random sprint winner but a well deserved winner, is exactly the way to make an exiting WC in my book.
 
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4v1, all working together, that chasing group would reel Alaphilippe back in, any day. But once he had 10 seconds, nobody was willing to put in the effort to catch him. It’s the same thing we’ve seen with just about every solo escape in a World Tour race this season; unless someone in the group has a teammate willing to sacrifice himself for a leader, the race is over once the attacker gets that gap.
Everybody dreams of the finest rainbow on the planet.
At +250k "will" is if not replaced by then at least combined with "stamina", everybody being on the limit for a long time, equalling each rider's strengths and weaknesses, all down to stamina. Just see Stuyven. In a normal 200k race he would beat van Baarle and Valgren 9 of 10 times.
In those situations it's good to have the forehand.
Besides I didn't see anyone else put 4 viscious shots in in the very finale with 25k to go. That Ala got away with the last attempt id a clear result of who got most left in the tank.
You're writing as it was a 200k race. WC is on a totally different level (edit: especially when ridden this hard, en téte with still 190k to go).
 
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Congratulations to Julian Alaphilippe for successfully defending the title.

It was a nice race to watch and a lot of interesting things happened during the race. Alaphilippe obviously show others on how it is done. It's just epic on how he won. Remco proved Eddy wrong. In the end i guess total capitulation of Belgium. Slovenia in my opinion disappointed too. I liked the fact they went all in with Mohorič. Tratnik did a good job and i know the route didn't suit Roglič and Pogačar all that well. Still they where nowhere near the medal and that should count as a disappointment.

Till next year jersey has the rightful owner.
 
4v1, all working together, that chasing group would reel Alaphilippe back in, any day. But once he had 10 seconds, nobody was willing to put in the effort to catch him. It’s the same thing we’ve seen with just about every solo escape in a World Tour race this season; unless someone in the group has a teammate willing to sacrifice himself for a leader, the race is over once the attacker gets that gap.
I disagree. It's one thing in a race of <200 k, an entirely different scenario at >250 k. The four worked together and got within 7-8 seconds at the one lap to go mark, then petered out. They couldn't work anymore together, not because of any disagreement, but because they were going on residual energy levels, with vain attempts by Powless to increase the pace. Then, when the gap went up to 30 sec, naturally they started preparing for the sprint for silver. If it were otherwise, they would have gotten back on terms when they were only 7 seconds back. So like I said before, Ala crucified them.
 
I think Moscon can be a monument winner and compete on any Worlds course, but he has to get his focus right, and i suspect get away from Ineos. I think he’d already have a couple of classics wins if he’d spent the last 5 years at EF or Trek, let alone if he’d been at Quickstep.

He’s 27 now, and in danger of spending the best years of his whole career helping Bernal and Carapaz minimize their losses to Slovenia.
I had high hopes for Moscon when he turned pro. His first couple of years were very promising and as you say the talent is probably there to win a big one day race. But he's got a lot of baggage and he struggles to peak at the right time, so I'm not sure Ineos is the problem. We'll see next year when he rides for Astana.
 
I had high hopes for Moscon when he turned pro. His first couple of years were very promising and as you say the talent is probably there to win a big one day race. But he's got a lot of baggage and he struggles to peak at the right time, so I'm not sure Ineos is the problem. We'll see next year when he rides for Astana.
Is it official that he'll ride for Astana?

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Right, here's a fun fact - though, I guess not so fun if you're Belgian: The last time the host nation didn't win any medals in the road races was... 2016!
 
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