Road

Wout van Aert plans for packed late-year race schedule

Belgian cross-discipline star hoping to race Tour de France and classics then transition straight into 'cross season.

Wout van Aert is looking to make up lost time with a season that starts August 29, in Nice, and stretches all through the muddy winter of northern Europe. Jumbo-Visma’s cross-discipline star is hoping to pack in appearances at the Tour de France and classics before transitioning directly into a full ‘cross season.

The new-look season outlined by the UCI this week should enable van Aert to check off the major targets he set himself before the season was shuttered by coronavirus. There is one wrinkle however, in that the Belgian powerhouse may not get his shot at the road world championship time trial, in Switzerland.

“I had two big goals — the spring classics and the Tour — and they both come back. I am very happy,” Van Aert said Thursday. “For me personally, there is only one major drawback: the world championship time trial coincides with the end of the Tour.”

At present, the Tour closes out in Paris September 20 — the day of the world championships time trial in Martigny. There is the possibility for the UCI to re-organize its world championships schedule to allow riders to compete in both events, though there is no news of that as yet.

If the situation remains as it is, van Aert knows where his priorities lie. Having been denied the chance to complete his first Tour de France last year after a season-ending crash in the stage 13 time trial, van Aert is intent on completing the three weeks in France with his powerful Dutch team.

“For the pure time trialists, the world championships may be more important, but for me the Tour is not a race where you just get off. Certainly not in my case. I want to finish it once,” van Aert told Het Laatste Nieuws. “I’m already looking forward to the Tour. We try to win it with the team. We have the riders for it.”

The cobbled classics have long been an ambition for van Aert, whose cyclocross power and handling skills transition well to the rough cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix. The news that all five monuments will be rescheduled allows him to continue his quest to conquer the classics.

“I made the choice to ride classics a few years ago and made it my goal to try and win them. You should not miss an opportunity” van Aert said. “I think there will still be time to race after [the Tour].”

With almost a full season of road racing to be elbowed into the period between August and November, events are set to overlap and clash, making for a frenetic few months on the pedals. That comes as a bonus for van Aert, who is hoping to resume his cyclocross battle with Mathieu van der Poel this winter after missing the 2019-20 season due to his Tour de France injuries.

“The road season will be much shorter this year than usual. I have not yet looked at it in detail, but I suspect that I will not need a break after the road season and will be able to connect immediately with the cross,” van Aert said.