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Wout van Aert out of Tour of Flanders, positive for COVID-19

Belgian home-crowd favorite is out for Sunday's monument, and will be recuperating from coronavirus.

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Wout van Aert will not be starting the 2022 Tour of Flanders Sunday.

In news release on the team Jumbo-Visma website, the Belgian star confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19, and will focus on returning to good health and top form, instead of racing on his home roads.

“Since [Wednesday] morning, I have had a slight sore throat. I immediately did two self-tests and they were both positive. I then did a PCR test, which showed that I tested strongly positive. The good news is that I only have mild symptoms, just a sore throat and a cold. My focus is on recovering now. I want to be fully recovered before thinking about the future again.”

Van Aert is coming off a very strong spring campaign that included top performances at Paris-Nice, where he towed the overall winner and teammate Primož Roglič the final 20km home on the final stage, as well as winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic.

The 27-year-old said he’s been cautious to not contract the novel coronavirus over the past two years, and is surprised and slightly disappointed in the timing of the illness. He thanks fans for the good wishes, after his team posted his taking ill earlier in the week.

“Over the last two years and the last months and weeks, I’ve put a lot of effort into avoiding infection. But you are still exposed to many risks, and you don’t always have things in your own hands,” he said. “It gave me a lot of pleasure reading everyone is so concerned with me. I want to thank everyone for their support over the last few days. I will now be my teammates’ biggest fan on Sunday.”

What was billed as yet another showdown between the multi-disciplinary stars van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel Alpecin-Fenix), and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) will have to wait until later in the season.

Van Aert’s teammate, Tiesj Benoot, is just off a second-place at the Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, behind van der Poel, and shows promise for a podium on Sunday.

“It’s different racing without the top favorite, both for the other teams and us. Wout has a big impact on every race he participates in. We’ll have to race without him now, but we’ll still be a strong team,” said Benoot. “The atmosphere was excellent over the past few weeks. We already had a good meeting. Then this news came. But everyone is still very motivated. It is a race we have been looking forward to for a long time. This situation is out of our control, so we have to let go of that quickly now.”

Van Aert is one of many riders to take ill this spring, including Peter Sagan, Quinn Simmons, and the majority of the Israel-Premier Tech squad.

This is an analysis of how illness is striking the pro peloton.