Philippe Gilbert, the last Belgian world champion before Sunday, was in awe of Remco Evenepoel's rainbow jersey-winning ride at Wollongong 2022.
“It was a long attack," Gilbert told Eurosport's The Breakaway. "He went clear with 25k to go. We were really cheering in the last k’s, living the emotions like him. It was really nice. He deserved the title because he did all the [work in the] final by himself, and in the selection.”
“When he’s on his own pace like that, in TT mode, he’s invincible,” Gilbert observed.
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The Belgian media is known for aggressively scrutinising its sports stars and although Gilbert admits that “it’s not easy as a Belgian athlete," he believes Evenepoel "manages [the pressure] really well."
Even more, Gilbert, who retires from the sport at the end of this season, believes Remco thrives off the media demands and stresses that come with so much attention:

'A performance to savour!' - Evenepoel comes home in style as world champion

"It’s a kick [for him] to answer the people," he says. "[Remco] is a real winner, a real fighter and he likes when it’s even harder.”
Evenepoel is the first rider to win a Monument, a Grand Tour and the men's world road race title in the same season since Bernard Hinault in 1980. It is also the only time the current Vuelta champion has won the rainbow jersey.

Highlights: All the action from a dramatic men's road race as Evenepoel takes title

Evenepoel has not been back to Belgium since winning the red jersey earlier this month. Gilbert says he can expect a rapturous reception when he finally makes it home:
“He’s gonna be invited by the king of Belgium in the grand place of Brussels. It’s going to be full of people, and he really deserves it. I think it’s going to be a really nice moment.”
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