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Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel weigh in on Paris-Roubaix cancelation

Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert said the cancelation of Paris-Roubaix shifts more importance to Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.

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The heavyweight showdown at Paris-Roubaix between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert will have to wait another year.

On Friday ASO officially canceled the 2020 edition of Paris-Roubaix, slated for October 25, due to a surge in COVID-19 cases across northern France.

This is the first cancelation of the famed cobbled classic since 1942, when it was called off due to World War II. The race was held in 1943 and 1944, when France was under Nazi occupation.

Van Aert vs. van der Poel generated much of the buzz this year, as van der Poel was set to make his debut at the race, and van Aert is on top form after winning two stages of the Tour de France as well as Strade Bianche.

In a release, van der Poel said the cancelation places more importance on the Belgian classics Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.

“It is a pity that I will not be able to complete that list and will have to wait until 2021 to be able to ride this legendary race,” van der Poel said. “Due to the cancelation, the importance of the upcoming races, with Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders respectively, will only increase. On the other hand, it appears that the choice to add Liège-Bastogne-Liège to my program was the right one. ”

Van Aert echoed van der Poel’s sentiment, saying the termination of Paris-Roubaix simply places extra importance on the remaining races this year.

“Over the past week I have decided to skip some of the races to be good in the coming cobbled classics,” van Aert said. “I don’t want to waste that, so I am extra motivated to make something of Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem.”

Van der Poel enters the cobbled classics period riding high after an overall victory at the BinckBank Tour, which came after he scored a 50km breakaway victory on the final stage. The Dutchman then narrowly missed the victory at De Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday to Julian Alaphilippe, but the close finish is a sign that he’s at his top form for the cobbled classics.

Wout Van Aert's 2020 Strade Bianche power analysis.
Wout Van Aert at a hot, dry, and dusty 2020 Strade Bianche. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Van Aert turned heads at the 2019 edition of Paris-Roubaix by riding back into the front group after multiple setbacks. He suffered a mechanical problem in the Arenberg forest and was forced to chase back on. Then, van Aert crashed after a bike change and again was forced to burn valuable energy chasing the main field.

Van Aert was strong enough to then make the decisive move alongside Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nils Politt, and eventual winner Philippe Gilbert. But he ran low on energy in the final meters and faded to 22nd overall. Video cameras captured images of van Aert writhing on the infield grass at the Roubaix velodrome with cramping legs at the finish line.

With a full season of road racing under his belt, van Aert was on the shortest list of favorites to win the 2020 edition.

“It is of course a big disappointment because Roubaix is one of my favorite races,” van Aert said. “I have worked really hard to be in good shape in Roubaix.”

Both men said they will target the 2021 edition of the race, so long as it is able to be held safely.