Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel have made clear that they are on the same page as they prepare to lead Belgium in the men's road race at the 2022 World Championships.
The multi-talented pair clashed during their home Worlds road race in Flanders last year, with Evenepoel criticising the chosen team tactics having been asked to ride in support of Van Aert.
Perhaps Evenepoel is the new Merckx after all, AVV's greatest year – Blazin’ Saddles
Twelve months on, the pair have been named as co-leaders for a strong, balanced Belgian unit targeting success in Wollongong, and ahead of Sunday's road race in Australia, Van Aert insisted that the hatchet had been very much buried.
"We know our chances are bigger if we ride well together so it would be really dumb to not do it," the Jumbo-Visma rider, who eventually finished 11th last year, said.
"That's also why we're here with two leaders and not how we did it last year because I think it makes us more unpredictable and that's a big advantage to our team. Probably [other teams] still believe we're not going all together, then that can also be pretty good."
Highlights: Alaphilippe stuns field to defend world title
Both riders have enjoyed strong 2022 seasons, with Van Aert starring at the Tour de France after another productive spring classics swing, and Evenepoel securing his maiden Grand Tour (La Vuelta) and monument (Liege-Bastogne-Liege) triumphs.
The pair's team-mate Jasper Stuyven was the best-placed Belgium finisher in fourth in Flanders last year, more than 30 seconds back from Julian Alaphilippe, who retained his men's road race crown.
Evenepoel believe that his and Van Aert's different qualities may give their team more cards to play on a parcours that may suit a varied selection of riders.
"We want to win for Belgium," explained Evenepoel. "I think that should be the big view of everybody, not only from us but also from the other guys, is to win the race as the country Belgium and as Belgians.
"I know Wout – his level, his capacities – he knows mine, so I think we do well in a bit of the same races, like Liege for example, and some other races as well. I think we can perfectly work together in the final of a long and hard race."
Van Aert agreed, adding: "Remco can attack from further out. On the other hand, I also believe we don't need to make a choice too early.
Evenepoel a 'proud Belgian' after Vuelta success
"We just need to take advantage of the chance that we will both be there in the final. I don't think that many countries will have that. That will be really important to keep all the options open.
"I think everyone expects me to maybe wait for a sprint but I can also attack."
Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar and Alaphilippe could also be among the contenders in New South Wales, while Michael Matthews may be eyeing a home Australian victory.
A single early ascent of Mount Keira is the stiffest uphill test of the day but the race is more likely to be decided on one of twelve loops of the Wollongong City Circuit, that includes a short climb to Mount Pleasant at an average gradient of nearly 8%.
- - -
Stream the UCI Road World Championships live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk
Rider ratings: Five-star Van Aert hoping for no rogue Evenepoel
Van Aert extends Jumbo-Visma deal to 2026
Share this article