Remco Evenepoel did everything he could to try and get rid of Italy’s Sonny Colbrelli on the last lap of the European Champs road race. The Belgian tried hard to shed Colbrelli, who is a superior sprinter, on the Povo climb.

From the top, however, an increasing­ly irritated Evenepoel continued to work, while Colbrelli just shrugged and sat in. He did one or two short turns, but Evenepoel was expending most of the watts on the front, and more in waving his arm at the Italian. The finishing sprint in Trento was a formality.

The aim, within the complex parameters of peloton politics, is to win bike races, not friends, so Colbrelli did everything right. However, Evenepoel did not. His Belgian team had ridden a blinder until the race was reduced to the front two plus, temporaril­y, Benoît Cosnefroy - they’d had Victor Campenaert­s up front earlier, while Ben Hermans had buried himself to put the eventual late selection of nine riders clear. Evenepoel’s job was to go to the finish alone.

Perhaps it would have made no difference, but once the final climb had been crested, it would have been interestin­g to see what would have happened if Evenepoel had refused to work. His frustratio­n at the inevitabil­ity of defeat in the

sprint showed that second place did not interest him, and if he’d applied game theory, he might have worked out that a close-to-zero-per-cent chance of winning if he went to the finish with Colbrelli was a smaller chance than if he sat on and let Cosnefroy back into contention. Against Colbrelli and Cosnefroy in a sprint, he would still be third favourite, but with Cosnefroy in the mix, Colbrelli would then have two rivals to contend with. The Italian would still be the favourite, but Evenepoel’s chance of victory would be slightly higher than it was by pacing Colbrelli to the finish. Sometimes you have to be prepared to lose in order to win.

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 ?? ?? Evenepoel was the strongest rider at the European Champs, but not quite the cleverest
Evenepoel was the strongest rider at the European Champs, but not quite the cleverest

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