Van Aert braced for success at Italian openers

Belgian confident and raring to go ahead of Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo.

Wout van Aert is just days away from restarting his season and is braced to hit it at top speed.

The Belgian cross-discipline talent lines up at Strade Bianche Saturday with high expectations and even higher confidence after two weeks at altitude with his Jumbo-Visma teammates.

“We are all starting on Saturday without a reference point, but I am not afraid of that,” Van Aert said. “In last year’s Dauphiné I learned that I digest altitude training well. That now gives me a mental advantage. I’m ready.”

Having taken third place two times, van Aert is relishing the prospect of revving his motor on the dirt roads of Tuscany this weekend. With three cyclocross world titles in his locker as well as the ability to punch past the likes of Peter Sagan in Tour de France stage finishes, the stoney hills of Strade Bianche are his perfect territory.

“I like the gravel roads, the technical aspect is in my favor,” Van Aert told Wielerflits.

“The slopes are not too long … La Redoute [in Liège-Bastogne-Liège], for example, is five minutes of climbing. There I have no chance against men who weigh ten kilograms less. On the Strade you can compensate a lot with power and technique. Offensive racing also pays off. I love that.”

Van Aert’s confidence extends beyond the mixed surfaces of Strade Bianche. One week later, the 25-year-old will be lining up for 300 kilometers of racing at Milano-Sanremo. He took sixth place in his debut appearance last year, and thinks he has the chops to go better. However, with success on the Via Roma typically coming down to centimeters after seven hours of tense racing, Van Aert is not counting on victory just yet.

“Last year I easily survived the Poggio and finished sixth in the sprint,” he said. “Then I think I could do even better, because I got a lot more confidence in my sprint a few months later. On the other hand… A lot of riders have come before me who thought after the first time that they could win Milano-Sanremo, but who did not succeed. Let’s not be too enthusiastic. ”