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Van Aert third again, ‘I hope to win Strade Bianche one day’

Repeating his performance from 2018, van Aert says the second podium finish was harder than his first, and he dreams of winning in Tuscany.

SIENA, Italy (VN) — Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma), third again in Strade Bianche, has fallen for the Tuscan gravel race and puts a win here on his bucket list.

Van Aert rode 20 kilometers solo to ensure he would be on the podium again in the WorldTour race finishing in Piazza del Campo. The result backs up his big splash on the road in 2018 after three cyclocross world titles.

“This is my second ride and my second podium spot,” the Belgian said.

“I hope to win Strade Bianche one day. It’s a magnificent race. I love this race.”

Van Aert surprised everyone with his ride alongside established WorldTour professionals in 2018. He used his ‘cross skills to manage the mud and place third behind winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).

Followers expected something from him this year after he rode to ninth in the Tour of Flanders and 13th in Paris-Roubaix. Over the winter, he stepped up to WorldTour team Jumbo-Visma.

“I’m happy with my performance. If you compare it to my three cyclocross world titles, the first is by far the easiest one to win. To confirm all the good things from the first time is always more difficult but I’m happy I did it,” he added.

“I think so [this third place has more meaning]. Last year was more out of the blue but this time the other guys in the final watched me and so it’s always more difficult. The most important thing is that I’ve confirmed that I’m able to do some great things in the biggest classics.”

Van Aert confirmed his ability to read a race and follow dangerous moves. He jumped on the wheel of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) when he attacked at 23.2km with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), the eventual winner.

He lost pace but rode solo with the group on his heels for 20 kilometers. In the last kilometer, he caught the front duo and briefly look like a threat to win.

“I had no choice,” he said of his never-give-up mentality today. “The group behind me was not that far back and the two in front were in sight, but I was in the hurt box for the last 20km.

“It’s a pity that I lost contact with them on the second to last sector, they were a bit too fast and bit too light I guess. I was the heavyweight in the front group. It is as it is. I’m super happy I could repeat my podium spot.”

Van Aert next races a series of one-day classics: Milano-Sanremo, E3 BinckBank Classic, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix.

“We’re not here with our typical classics squad, it’s a mix with the Ardennes team,” he continued. “A few of our classics riders are in Paris-Nice to help Dylan Groenewegen for the sprints,” he said about his Dutch team.

“It’s hard to learn from this race. Taco [van der Hoorn] and Danny [van Poppel] had a bad day with a lot of crashes and bad luck. [But] we can learn that my shape is good and that I’m ready for more.”