Wout van Aert is hoping to bounce back from a rare poor performance in the last UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Tabor, and claim victory at round five on home soil in Koksjide on Sunday. His goal is to move into the overall series lead.
"I kept giving myself the best of myself, because that World Cup is a goal in itself," Van Aert wrote about his Tabor performance in his weekly column on WielerFilts on Tuesday.
Van Aert said he simply had an off day in Tabor, a rare situation for him to be in, but he hoped to have a strong round in Koksijde before taking a break next week. He participated in the first two rounds in the US – Waterloo and Iowa City – where he placed second to Toon Aerts in both races.
He travelled back to Europe for rounds three and four in Bern and Tabor. In Bern, Van Aert again placed second but this time it was to Mathieu van der Poel, while Aerts finished third. In Tabor, last weekend, he struggled to finish seventh while van der Poel went on to another victory.
"After the [World Cup] races in the US I had hoped to reduce the gap on Toon Aerts, but now I take a step back," Van Aert wrote.
"I have continued to give the best of myself because that World Cup is a goal in itself. Not obvious if you are not used to racing between places fifth and tenth, and you might already feel tempted to let it go. But I certainly did not want to give up the overall classification, so I kept on fighting.”
After Tabor, and heading into the fifth round in Koksijde on Sunday, Aerts is leading the overall series with 285 points and Van Aert sits just 27 points behind. Quinten Hermans is in third at 55 points in arrears. The winner of a World Cup round secures 80 points, second gets 70 and third gets 60, making the overall lead a possibility for Van Aert in Belgium.
After the Koksijde World Cup the series takes a short hiatus, and Van Aert plans to travel to Calpe, Spain, for a training camp in the warmer weather. The series resumes in Namur on December 12, and further rounds follow in Heusden Zolder on December 26, Pont-Chateau on January 20 and Hoogerheide on January 27.