Cyclo-cross world champion Wout van Aert has apologised after criticising the UCI for putting a podium countdown clock in the post-race tent at the Namur World Cup cyclo-cross race on Sunday, saying he will respect the clock in Wednesday's Boxing Day World Cup race in Zolder.
A large clock showed that Van Aert had ten minutes to get changed after the race and prepare for the podium ceremony. In recent weeks he has opted to spin his legs on the rollers after each cyclo-cross race in pursuit of a marginal gain as he tries to compete against Mathieu van der Poel. However that delayed post-race interviews and the podium ceremony, irritating Van der Poel, who had to wait for his rival despite dominating the races. He had threatened to quit the podium ceremonies if they took too long.
UCI regulations state that the top three riders must appear on the podium within ten minutes of the final rider crossing the finish line. Van Aert has been taking more than 15 minutes to warm down and change from his race clothing, slowing the podium ceremony that is often shown live on television.
Van der Poel complained via the Belgian media and the UCI gave World Cup leader Van Aert a warning and placed the clock in the tent after Sunday’s race in Namur.
After again finishing second-best to van der Poel in Namur, Van Aert sarcastically suggested the countdown clock reminded him of sprinting on his bike as a boy to ensure he made the school bell.
"I have already said to the UCI that I think there are other problems that can be solved first. It reminded me a bit of my school time, where I had to do a sprint on my bike to be on time. I could also rush that and now again. I wonder if this is the ideal solution," Van Aert told the Belgian media in Namur, also taking a shot at Van der Poel.
"I can not hurt Mathieu at all this year. Still, he apparently finds it difficult that I need two minutes longer to be washed. If I had already won 20 crosses, I would worry about other things, I think."
A day later, Van Aert took to Twitter to apologise for venting his frustration about the clock watch.
"I want to apologize to the UCI for my comments from yesterday [Sunday] after the competition about the new timing system for the podium ceremony," Van Aert wrote, hinting he will be quicker after the UCI World Cup race in Zolder, Belgium on Boxing Day.
"I agree with the time clock, it makes things clear to everyone. Blessed Christmas, I see you all in Zolder!"
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of all the racing from the Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, Heusden-Zolder on Wednesday.