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2021 World Championships Elite Road Race Roundup

Catch up on all the action from a phenomenal weekend of racing in Flanders.

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This weekend cycling returned to its spiritual homeland in Flanders, Belgium, for the 94th UCI Road World Championships. The fans showed up in droves to cheer on the best riders in the world on a course that could have seen any number of the world’s best win. For their part, the riders delivered an impressive showcase of racing. On Saturday, Elisa Balsamo of Italy denied the Netherlands, so often the dominant team in recent years, the rainbow jersey in a close sprint finish. Then on Sunday defending champion Julian Alaphilippe joined some exclusive company of back-to-back world champions after another of his daring attack-filled performances yielded the win. Here’s all the action from this weekend.

Italy Ends Dutch Streak

Elisa Balsamo of Italy celebrates winning ahead of Marianne Vos of Netherlands. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

For the first time in four years the women’s world championships road race was won by a non-Dutch rider, in the form of Elisa Balsamo of Italy. After years of speculation going into every major championship over how the Dutch might crumble under the pressure of having a team full of favorites, the 2021 season seems to have finally caught up with them.

Amy Jones provides her full analysis of the elite women’s road race.

Double Rainbow for Alaphilippe

Image: Chris Auld.

In the end, it was all about timing and Julian Alaphilippe’s proved to be perfect. The former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer, winner of the 2020 UCI World Championships Road Race in Italy, showed his attacking qualities once again on the final circuit of the 2021 men’s road race in Belgium, with another lone win.

Back-to-back wins by the Frenchman in the world championships are proof of his durability, continuing ambition and also his racing instincts, writes Jeremy Whittle in his race analysis.

Marianne Vos: ‘When You’re So Close, It’s Very Sour’

The three-time world champion was in tears after the finish, clearly devastated after coming so close to claiming a fourth title 15 years after her first. It was her sixth time finishing second in this race.  

Kit Nicholson has the story over at CyclingTips.

Ruth Winder Retires on a High Note

Image: Casey B. Gibson.

The former U.S. national road champion calls it a career, after relentlessly attacking ‘without fear or pressure.’ Ben Delaney takes a look at her final race and impressive career for VeloNews.

Where Did It Go Wrong for Belgium?

The Belgian team was favored to win, and put in a lot of work at the front of the race, but walked away without even a podium finish. Image: Chris Auld.

As the Belgians proved on Sunday, asking your stars to bury themselves with huge pulls for their teammates won’t always win you a bike race. Dane Cash analyzed the team’s tactics for CyclingTips.

Alaphilippe: ‘I don’t want to become a robot’

Image: Chris Auld.

After picking up his second world title in as many years, the French rider promised to never change his attacking ways which have at times drawn criticism. “Even if you lose sometimes, it’s even more beautiful when you win,” he says. Andrew Hood has the story for VeloNews.

Powless Posts Best U.S. Men’s Worlds Result in Over Two Decades

Neilson Powless, second from right wearing the USA jersey, put in the first top-10 performance by an American in this race since 2011 by finishing fifth. Image: Chris Auld.

Neilson Powless’s fifth place is the first top-10 since 2011 and equals Chann McRae’s fifth place in 1999, presenting a bright hope for the future of American cycling. Andrew Hood has the story at VeloNews.

Men’s Road Race Gallery

Photographer Chris Auld was on site at the men’s road race, capturing the familiar roads used in the spring classics which made for lively racing.

Julian Alaphilippe embraces his wife Marion Rousse after successfully defending his worlds title. Image: Chris Auld.
Alaphilippe grabs his rainbow jersey on the podium. Image: Chris Auld.
Nathas Haas has a little fun after being dropped. Image: Chris Auld.
Alaphilippe in the break. Image: Chris Auld.
The final podium. Dylan van Baarle, left, took silver, and Michael Valgren, right, took bronze. Image: Chris Auld.

Flemish Fans Never Disappoint

You’re hard pressed to find cycling fans as passionate as Belgians. Image: Chris Auld.
Cycling is enjoyed by fans young and old in Belgium. Image: Chris Auld.
There’s never a dull moment—or a quiet one for that matter—along the roads of Flanders. Image: Chris Auld.
The large crowds kept even riders who were dropped in high spirits. Image: Chris Auld.

News From Beyond Worlds: Jan Ullrich Opens Up About his Struggles

Jan Ullrich has made a public appearance for the first time since 2018, joining Lance Armstrong’s “The Move” podcast where he opens up about his recovery from addiction. It’s great to see one of the greatest cyclists of his generation doing well after a very public struggle.