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Wout van Aert: ‘A fourth cyclocross world title won’t add much to my palmarès’

Top favorite Van Aert racing ‘for honor’ in headline cyclocross clash with Van der Poel as Belgian waits on bigger goals in spring.

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A fourth elite cyclocross world title won’t mean as much as a spring monument to Wout van Aert.

Van Aert rides into Sunday’s Hoogerheide cyclocross world championships with top favorite status and an opportunity to pull one back on longtime nemesis Mathieu van der Poel in their three-four rainbow jersey rivalry.

The Belgian’s body will be on his ‘cross bike for what will be his eighth elite title race this weekend. But Van Aert’s mind may be more on the spring classics in Sunday’s popcorn-worthy prizefight.

“It’s all a bit less exciting now,” Van Aert told the press ahead of world championships weekend Friday.

“It would be a shame if I miss the title, but it doesn’t mean that much. That title doesn’t add much to my palmarès anymore.”

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Van Aert’s focus shifted in recent years.

New temptations on the road drew the Belgian’s attention from his long love affair with cyclocross, and headline victories at Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, and the Tour de France soon followed.

Yet Van Aert sees his tarmac-tinted trophy cabinet only half complete as he hunts an elusive victory at the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix.

The Jumbo-Visma star now sees ‘cross as welcome training for the monuments. It’s a “take-it-or-leave-it” outlook in contrast to archrival Van der Poel, who indicated this week that winning a fifth cyclocross world title would make or break his winter.

“I look at it slightly differently [to Van der Poel]. Winter is a step below what follows next,” Van Aert said. “On the road there are certain races that I say that spring has not been successful if I or the team do not win there.”

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But Van Aert won’t be soft-pedaling Sunday.

Bragging rights over Van der Poel on a Dutch circuit a short hop over the Belgian border gives the 28-year-old all the motivation he needs.

“I’m racing for the honor, of course. I’m still in love with the sport, the game,” he said.

“I really regret that it’s my last ‘cross on Sunday. It always flies by. When I see how many people I’ve been able to make happy again, that’s what I do It.”

‘I have no fear about Adrie van der Poel building the course’

Van Aert isn’t concerned by the relocation of a set of barriers on the Hoogerheide circuit.

Van Aert wasn’t fazed by a recent chorus of concern in Belgian media that the Adrie van der Poel-created course for this weekend’s races had been tweaked to favor Adrie’s son.

“I think I’ve won almost all the world championships that Adrie has drawn, so I have nothing to fear,” Van Aert said.

The relocation of a set of barriers to a position that could work with Van der Poel’s fast-hopping skills – supposedly on the basis of safety and spectator stoke – doesn’t bother Van Aert.

“On a more serious note, I think Adrie draws great courses,” he said. “I have no fear at all about Adrie building courses. We talk about that a lot, that not all the zones are built in terms of security. But for us riders, that makes it pleasant.”

A fast, flat circuit could soon see Van Aert and Van der Poel off the front solo Sunday.

After a week of café rides, Van Aert is braced for battle.

“Sunday is the ‘cross of the year for me,” he said. “I know with certainty that I am ready for it.”