2023 in sport: Belgium’s dominance in cycling shows no signs of stopping
Belgium's top professional cyclists, Remco Evenepoel and Lotte Kopecky, dominated the sport last season. They secured numerous world championships, stage wins and jerseys, proving once again that Belgium is truly a cycling powerhouse.
At the annual Belgian Sports Gala in early December, the top three national awards went to three cyclists: Evenepoel was named Sportsman of the Year, Kopecky was named Sportswoman of the Year and Alec Segaerts was named Newcomer of the Year.
No other country is so invested in cycling as Belgium, and no other country has produced so many talented cyclists. Slovenian Tadej Pogacar and Dane Jonas Vingegaard may be superior to Belgium's individual talents, but as a team the country has no equal.
Evenepoel once again dominated the season. He won two stages at the Giro d'Italia, three stages and the best climber's jersey at the Vuelta a España, and a stage and the general classification at the UAE Tour. He also successfully defended his title at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and became the first Belgian time trial world champion.
Evenepoel is planning to move up another gear in 2024. He has confirmed that he will make his Tour de France debut next summer. He will also try to add another world championship to his name and will be one of the favourites for an Olympic medal in Paris.
With three Sportsman of the Year titles, he is edging closer to breaking Eddy Merckx's absolute record of six wins.
Kopecky, meanwhile, has had the best year of her career so far. While Evenepoel has some stiff competition, the 28-year-old proved that she is a cut above the rest of the peloton
In August, she achieved one of her biggest goals: becoming world champion on the road. She came close last year, finishing second in 2022, but finished the job this summer with a dominant performance in Glasgow.
Kopecky also took home two gold medals and a bronze on the track. A stage win and the green jersey at the Tour de France, the Tour of Flanders and 12 other road victories saw her become the first female cyclist ever to be voted Best Sportswoman of the Year.
The achievements of these two riders are just part of Belgium's dominance in the sport this year. Alec Segaert, who won the emerging talent award, became the U23 European time trial champion. Jasper Philipsen won four stages and the green jersey at the Tour de France, where Wout Van Aert guided Jonas Vingegaard to the yellow jersey.
2023 was an impressive year for Belgian cycling, and with the Olympics in Paris on the horizon, 2024 could be even better.
Lotte Kopecky wins in Glasgow. © BELGA PHOTO DAVID PINTENS