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Wout van Aert, Lotte Kopecky, Remco Evenepoel lead Belgium road worlds selection

Dylan Teuns and Oliver Naesen among those that miss out while Jasper Philipsen and Greg Van Avermaet are named as reserves for men's road race.

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Belgium has announced a formidable squad for the road world championships in Australia next month with Wout van Aert, Lotte Kopecky, and Remco Evenepoel headlining the team.

The nation will be looking to better what proved to be a mixed home worlds in Flanders last year that ended in controversy over the team performance in the men’s road race.

Evenepoel will ride the TT as well as the road race, as will Yves Lampaert. Kopecky and Julie Van De Velde will take on the time trial for the women.

Dylan Teuns and Oliver Naesen have missed out on selection entirely, while Jasper Philipsen and Greg Van Avermaet have been named as reserves. There are no reserves for the women’s team.

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Following a strong start in the time trials in 2021, the team failed to make the podium in any of the road races. Van Aert and Evenepoel finished second and third, respectively, in the elite men’s TT, while Florian Vermeersch took bronze for the U23, and Alec Segaert finished third in the junior men’s TT.

The elite men’s road race ended in ignominy with several of the team’s riders throwing shade at each other in the Belgian media following disagreements about tactics. Star riders Van Aert and Evenepoel were at the center of the controversy.

Evenepoel was one of the early instigators in the race, attacking with around 180km to go and lighting up what would prove to be a lightning day of action. Following a very aggressive day of racing, Van Aert ran out of steam when it came to the crunch moment.

Evenepoel, who said pre-race that he would ride 100 percent in support of Van Aert, would later say that the race was a “missed opportunity” for himself and that the team management should not have gone all-in for Van Aert and Jasper Stuyven.

Van Aert hit back at Evenepoel’s comments, saying that Evenepoel had said more in the media than he had in the team meetings. He added to it by criticizing Evenepoel’s decision to attack early.

Settling differences

The duo will have to put their differences behind them as they’re likely to have joint leadership in Wollongong next month. The hilly course could end in a sprint or with a breakaway and the pair gives the team options in both eventualities.

Van Aert and Evenepoel will have had very different buildups to the worlds with the latter currently lighting it up in the lead of the Vuelta a España. Meanwhile, Van Aert has been hitting up a series of one-day races as he looked to get back into peak shape after a short break following the Tour de France.

Stuyven was the top finisher for the team in his hometown of Leuven last year, finishing just off the podium in fourth, and he will form part of the lineup this season. The team brings a strong core of domestiques with Lampaert, Stan Dewulf, Quinten Hermans, Pieter Serry, and Nathan Van Hooydonck completing the lineup.

The women’s road race did not end with the same furor, but it did conclude with disappointment as Kopecky was the team’s best finisher in 16th. She will be hoping for a lot more in Wollongong after a standout season in 2022 that saw her win Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders.

Kopecky has been splitting her time between the roads and the boards after notching up gold medals in the elimination and points races at the European track championships just weeks after competing at the Tour de France Femmes.

She will be joined by rising sprint star Julie De Wilde, who is making her elite worlds debut aged just 19. De Wilde finished second to Megan Jastrab in the junior road race in 2019 and could be a contender for the U23 world title, depending on how Belgium decides to play it.

Completing the line-up will be Van De Velde, who recently finished sixth overall at the Tour of Scandinavia, Valerie Demey, Justine Ghekiere, and Jesse Vandenbulcke. Shari Bossuyt has not been named on the team as she focuses on the track world championships in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, which start on October 12.