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Evenepoel, van Aert take positives from Olympic delay

Belgian superstars see postponement of Tokyo Olympics as opportunity to build form.

Belgian superstars Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert are focussing on the opportunity rather than the disappointment that comes with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“For me it’s the only right decision they could take, to replace the Olympics to the 2o21 season,” Evenepoel said.

“Of course, I will prepare again for then. Maybe for me it’s not so bad because it’s one year later — I have another year to develop myself, to become stronger, take more experience. I will just do everything I can to be in top shape and to be there in 2021.”

20-year-old Evenepoel is guaranteed a start in the time trial for the Belgian team, having won the European time trial championships last year. He also took second place in the world championships time trial, only bested by defending champion Rohan Dennis.

Having started his sophomore season on a tear, winning the Vuelta a San Juan and Volta ao Algarve, Evenepeol did speak of his regret at the delay however.

“Of course, it’s a pity. It’s quite hard to know that all your winter preparations are gone,” Evenepoel said on a video posted on his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team’s website. “You work so hard toward something that’s getting closer and closer, your shape is getting better and better, you’re getting more skinny. But of course, the most important [thing] is to get the whole world healthy again.”

Fellow Belgian van Aert also agreed with the decision to delay the Games, and also took a positive from being given more time to prepare.

“For me personally, it increases my chances of being selected, because it gives me more opportunities to show myself,” van Aert said in a statement posted by his Jumbo-Visma team.

Van Aert was one of the long list of Belgian talent that was contending for places on both the nation’s road team, and the second time trial slot alongside Evenepoel. Having seen the back-half of his 2019 season wiped out after a heavy crash and injury in the Tour de France time trial last year, van Aert has started to show glimmers of his past form in his 2020 comeback. With news that the Games will be pushed back to 2021 ‘at the latest,’ van Aert has gained time to get back to tip-top condition.

Van Aert saw other positives in the delay, with the postponement of the Games offering calendar space for rescheduling the host of other races impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In cycling, that provides the space to reschedule races or, I don’t know, to possibly reschedule the Tour,” van Aert said. “And for next year, the calendar can already take the Olympic Games into account. The fact that we already know this is positive. So I’m not too disappointed. Hopefully there will be other goals for this year.”