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Paris-Roubaix: Will Wout van Aert be in top condition to win? Jumbo-Visma not sure

Jumbo-Visma is glad the Belgian star is back in time to race Paris-Roubaix: 'Wout starts in a free role.'

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Jumbo-Visma isn’t sure how deep Wout van Aert can go in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, they’re just happy the Belgian star is racing.

Van Aert is late call-up to race Sunday after recovering from a bout of COVID-19 that sidelined him during Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race. He missed an important period of racing and resumed training in Spain last week, but officials admit his condition will be a question mark Sunday.

“He will not be in the shape of his life on Sunday,” sport director Grischa Niermann told Het Nieuwsblad. “He is healthy enough to start. We can only hope he comes to win. The question mark remains. On the other hand, training is going very well again. That’s why we can draft him in.”

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Jumbo-Visma was on a tear early in the spring, with van Aert picking up wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Saxo Bank Classic, and a stage at Paris-Nice. Van Aert was 12th at Gent-Wevelgem, but fell ill and was later diagnosed with COVID-19.

The team also brings Christophe Laporte and Mike Teunissen, but it’s no secret the team is much deeper with the presence of van Aert.

“Wout starts in a free role,” Niermann said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s not just about Wout on Sunday. We have Christophe Laporte, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Mike Teunissen. They can also go far and drive to the final. In Paris-Roubaix you need more than one plan, a lot can happen along the way. If you put everything on one leader, you can be very disappointed.”

Wout van Aert misses cobbles recon

Wout van Aert missed a preview ride of the cobbles, but will race Paris-Roubaix. (Photo: LUC CLAESSEN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Van Aert was training in Spain, and missed the team’s cobblestone recon this week, something Niermann said was not decisive.

Niermann also said the team’s medical staff cleared him to race.

“Wout really wanted to drive. He also had to wait for the green light from the team doctors. Hopefully he’s doing well. But the reconnaissance came too early. That is not necessarily necessary for Wout,” he said. “He’s already ridden Paris-Roubaix a few times and maybe he’ll take a ride there in the next few days. Such an exploration must also be feasible.

“The medical staff has made the decision. I am a sports director, and I cannot determine whether Wout is fit or not,” he told the Belgian daily. “We are not going to deny that we missed him in the Ronde and the Amstel. Even though we had a good race there, with Tiesj Benoot and with Christophe Laporte. This spring we showed a number of times how we like to race, with Wout on hand. That is how we won the Omloop and the E3 Harelbeke.”