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Evenepoel aims to back rivals into corner in world title bid

Remco Evenepoel will defend his men’s cycling world road race title in Scotland on Sunday on a course that culminates on the streets of Glasgow and which should suit the Belgian showman.

An A-list of contenders includes fellow Belgian Wout van Aert, his great Dutch rival Mathieu van der Poel and two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia.

The course is epic not only in its sheer length at 271km, but also because there are 480 corners in the final part of the race, which suits Evenepoel’s strengths.

Urban courses tend to favour smaller men who can better negotiate high-speed cornering, gaining up to one second advantage per corner.

“The guy who designed the course must have been at the pub, with all those turns it’ll be quite a show,” said Evenepoel who also holds the Vuelta a Espana title.

Belgium has two other potential winners in van Aert, considered the most powerful all-round rider, and sprinter Jasper Philipsen, winner of four stages at the Tour de France.

He could be a likely winner if the race ends with a bunch sprint.

“It’s like a junior race, except it’s 271km long,” van Aert said of all the corners.

Glasgow is the host of a new format 13-discipline world championships that include track, road, off-road and BMX.

‘Race of death’

However, Sunday’s road race is the major attraction for most fans.

The 200 riders embark from Edinburgh along a largely flat course which culminates with 10 laps of Glasgow city centre, at 14.3km per lap.

Rain is forecast the whole day which will add another element of drama.

“If it rains this will be a race of death,” predicted Florian Senechal. “It’ll make a nice show but who wants a broken collarbone.”

Two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe is a dark horse.

His coach Tommy Voeckler described the course as peculiar because of the winding inner-city loop.

“There are 48 corners per lap, so almost 500 in total in the second part of the race,” he said, understanding that cornering will in fact be the cornerstone of any win.

The distance may also suit Dutch powerhouse van der Poel, who won two of the ultra-long Monument races this year, the Milan-San Remo at 299km and Paris-Roubaix at 253km.

“You can attack on this course anywhere and lose the peloton in 20 seconds, we don’t have earphones at the worlds. This may suit me,” van der Poel said.

He had been favourite at the 2022 worlds in Australia but ended up under arrest and in a police cell after a hotel confrontation with two teenage girls who he claimed had repeatedly knocked on his hotel door and ran away.

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