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’Cross world champion Wout van Aert joins road ranks

The Belgian is landing on his feet with Jumbo-Visma after a falling-out with former team Veranda's Willems-Crelan.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Following a turbulent few months, three-time world cyclocross champion and rising classics rider Wout van Aert is joining Team Jumbo-Visma.

The Dutch WorldTour team includes Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk, fourth and fifth overall in the 2018 Tour de France, and young Americans Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless.

The Belgian signed with the team, formerly known as LottoNL-Jumbo, for the next three seasons, through 2021. The contract kicks off March 1 following the current cyclocross season.

The rumored deal was made official this week at the team’s camp in Spain.

“We were interested in Wout for 2020,” general manager Richard Plugge said. “Things have all gone faster than planned and we can welcome him to our team earlier. That’s very good news for the team, because we’re getting stronger.”

Classics organizers were keen to have the ’cross star race their events and invited Veranda’s Willems-Crelan to numerous prominent races in spring 2018. Van Aert lived up to the hype.

In his transition to the road, van Aert placed third in Strade Bianche, ninth in the Tour of Flanders, and 13th in Paris-Roubaix.

Plugge added, “He’s a very big talent and we hope to be able to develop him into the classic rider we all see in him.”

“I think I achieved great results last year and that’s why I had the opportunity to talk with different teams,” van Aert said. “At one point, Team Jumbo-Visma knocked on my door, a team that really appealed to me.”

In September, the 24-year-old van Aert left his previous team, Veranda’s Willems-Crelan, one year early, after arguments over a merger with Dutch team Roompot-Netherlands Loterij.

“Due to circumstances, I will be able to move up the ranks in 2019 already,” van Aert said. “It feels good that I can step up to the WorldTour because I think I can develop myself a lot at that level.”

The circumstances of a gradual falling-out over management decisions and the planned merger led to van Aert announcing his departure. He had a contract in place for 2020 with LottoNL-Jumbo, but he still had one season remaining with Veranda’s Willems.

Lawyers for van Aert and his former team’s management company Sniper Cycling are still discussing the break and financial details. He may be forced to pay upward of 500,000 euros, the estimated value of his contract.

Van Aert had raced cyclocross under Crelan, but with the sudden break, he was forced to compete as an independent rider. His first races without Sniper Cycling were in the U.S. at the Waterloo and Jingle Cross events in Wisconsin and Iowa.

He looks ahead to 2019 now. He was due to train with Roglic, Kruijswick, and the rest of the road team on Tuesday in Spain. He’ll join the team in Veghel, Netherlands, for the Jumbo-Visma presentation Friday.

With the March 1 start date, he could debut in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the day after or Strade Bianche on March 9 in Italy.