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Gravel

Wout van Aert hints he will dabble in gravel racing

With the UCI-sanctioned gravel worlds slated for Flanders in 2024, it might be too close to home for Van Aert to avoid.

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Wout van Aert is the master of everything on two wheels. From sprints to cyclocross to riding first up Mount Ventoux and bashing over the cobbles, there’s little the Swiss Army knife of cycling cannot do.

So how long is it before Van Aert dips into gravel racing?

According to an interview with Wielerflits, perhaps not very long at all.

“Maybe I’ll do it in the years to come,” Van Aert told Wielerflits. “But then it would be mostly to have a nice time.”

Like many on the road scene, Van Aert is watching with interest from the sidelines as the gravel discipline continues to explode.

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A handful of top roadies started the first UCI-sanctioned gravel world championships in October, including Peter Sagan, Mathieu van der Poel, and Daniel Oss. Much to the chagrin of pure gravel enthusiasts, many of whom skipped the UCI event altogether, cyclocross and road racer Gianni Vermeersch won the stripes ahead of Oss.

“I watched the last edition on TV and thought it was nice to see,” Van Aert said. “The [UCI] gravel worlds is organized quite late in the road season. On the other hand, I think this title fight is less stressful than the other big goals in the year.”

In the here and now, Van Aert is building toward a run at the UCI cyclocross worlds in February, and will return soon to some upcoming CX events to build toward the worlds.

After that, it’s back to his full-time gig at Jumbo-Visma. The spring classics and the quest for an elusive monument victory are at the top of his 2023 wish list, along with a title defense at the Tour de France for the green jersey as well as the yellow jersey for teammate Jonas Vingegaard.

The “mega worlds” scheduled in August also present a new wrinkle in Van Aert’s traditional blueprint across the road racing calendar.

That earlier date might see Van Aert dipping his toes into gravel sooner than he might expect.

The 2023 UCI-sanctioned gravel worlds are slated to return to the Veneto region once again, but officials confirmed that the Flanders region of Belgium will host the 2024 event.

That might be too close to home for Van Aert to miss out on.

“I know that the [UCI] gravel worlds will be held again in Italy next year and in Belgium the following year,” Van Aert said. “It’s a beautiful sport. I was positively surprised how much attention this worlds received. I think the gravel worlds has a great future.”