Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel plan to work together to ensure Belgium win the men’s world road race title in Australia on Sunday, but they are also hungry for individual glory.
The pair will enter the epic 266.9-kilometre (165-mile) race around the coastal city of Wollongong among the favourites, alongside two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar and defending champion Julian Alaphilippe.
They have the advantage of being on the same team and will play to each other’s strengths before the gloves are off in the final.
“We want to win for Belgium, I think that should be the big dream, not only for us and the others, it is to win the race like Belgium and the Belgians”, Evenepoel, recently won the Vuelta a España for his first Grand Tour of victory he told reporters.
“I know Wout, his levels and his abilities, and he knows mine. So I think we can work well together at the end of a long and hard career.”
Van Aert, who is in Wollongong after finishing second in the Montreal Cycling Grand Prix behind Pogacar of Slovenia, echoed his teammate’s sentiments.
“I think it’s clear what our capabilities are. I think I have a better run than Remco, normally, and Remco can attack from further away,” he said.
“I don’t think we should make a decision too soon, we just need to take advantage of the possibility that we are both in the final. I think not many countries will have that.”
Both men and women, whose elite race is on Saturday, will begin with a coastal traverse from the start in Helensburgh to the heart of the championships in Wollongong, south of Sydney.
Once there, they will tackle a climbing circuit on Mount Keira, with a maximum height of 473 meters, before heading to a technical route in the city of Wollongong, in which the men will do 12 laps and the women six.
Rain is forecast for Saturday but clearing is expected on Sunday.
The winner will wear the legendary rainbow jersey for the next year.
Alaphilippe is keen to keep him but the Frenchman has had a chaotic build-up, missing much of the year following serious injuries in a Liege-Bastogne-Liege clash in April.
The 30-year-old was in no condition for the Tour de France but returned to the Vuelta, only to crash on stage 11 and dislocate his shoulder.
“I’m not in the best condition, that’s for sure,” he admitted this week.
“I’m certainly not 100 percent. I’m not going to be rotten either, but I’m not going to go in with the same certainty as in previous years.”
Pogacar has high hopes and is confident he can back up his win in Montreal, but he will have to do so with a depleted Slovenian team missing last year’s Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic and one-day specialist Matej Mohoric.
“I’m really motivated. I can’t wait,” said Pogacar, who was second in the Tour de France this year after finishing sixth in the elite time trial in Australia.
This Sunday’s event opens the curtain on a nine-day championship that included junior, under-23 and senior races for men and women, as well as a mixed team event.