Wout van Aert is poised to make history on home roads if he packs magic in his legs.
No elite male pro rider has ever pulled the double rainbow in world championship racing, winning both the time trial and road race titles in one edition of the worlds.
Two women have done it — Anna van der Breggen and Jeanie Longo — but an elite male has yet to cross this milestone.
Sunday’s time trial could put van Aert, already heavily favored for the road race on September 26, in the pole position for history.
How’s van Aert feeling? Pretty good, from the looks of things. Here’s what he said after winning four stages and the overall at the Tour of Britain.
“The Tour of Britain has been a good race for us in all respects. A beautiful course that has many similarities with the course of the world championships in Flanders,” he said. “The preparation for my next big goals is going smoothly.”
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Of course, van Aert’s come close already, winning silver in both races in the 2020 worlds in Imola.
Since the time trial became an official world championship discipline in 1994, only one male rider has worn the stripes in both disciplines.
Who was that? Spanish rider Abraham Olano. He won the road title in 1995, and the time trial in 1998.
Olano and Spanish teammate Miguel Indurain finished 1-2 in both races in the dramatic 1995 worlds in Colombia, with Olano riding in for gold on a punctured rear tire, with Indurain taking silver in the road race. They swapped for the time trial, with Indurain winning gold and Olano finishing second to “Big Mig” that year.
Other riders have hit podiums in both disciplines, including Stefan Küng, who was third in the 2019 road race, and third last year in Imola for the time trial.
Time trial challenge comes first
Van Aert is poised for the rare rainbow double, but it won’t be easy.
He’ll face stiff competition Sunday, including against compatriot Remco Evenepoel, Filippo Ganna, or Tadej Pogačar, among others.
Speaking of rainbow jersey sweeps, another rider who might pull it off this year could be Kasper Asgreen. The Tour of Flanders winner packs solid time trial skills, and will be a formidable challenger for the road race.
Pogačar, too, could also be a factor in both races, though he seems a bit slow coming out of the gate in his return to racing after winning the Tour de France and taking bronze at the Olympic Games road race.
In the women’s race, van der Breggen already confirmed she won’t be racing the time trial, opening the door for Annemiek van Vleuten to try to join the rare rainbow-double club.
If he strikes gold in the time trial, van Aert will be the heavy favorite to win the road race on September 26.
Anything can happen in one-day racing, but the motivated Belgian team is committed to riding for van Aert, right Remco?
With the fans unmasked this week, van Aert could write his own Hollywood script and make history on home roads.