Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has confirmed that he will not participate in the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire in September, preferring instead to ride a full cyclo-cross programme next winter.
The three-time cyclo-cross world champion began to segue onto the road in earnest last spring and moved up to WorldTour level with Jumbo-Visma this season. Van Aert placed second at the E3 BinckBank Classic, third at Strade Bianche and 6th at Milan-San Remo, while also catching the eye with a stirring but ill-starred display at Paris-Roubaix.
His performances in the cobbled Classics prompted calls for Van Aert to be installed as Belgium’s team leader for the Worlds road race in Yorkshire, which takes place on September 29. Van Aert took the bronze medal in last year’s European Championships in Glasgow but has said that he will not line out for the Belgian national team at the Worlds.
“This is my own decision, although of course I have consulted with my entourage," Van Aert told WielerFlits. “Riding the World Cup in Yorkshire would mean that I would not start my cyclo-cross season until sometime in December, because I would want to schedule an acceptable rest period, and then you also have to rebuild.”
Van Aert explained that he would rather complete an extensive season of cyclo-cross and then prepare for the Classics rather than make a series of cameo appearances around the Christmas period, as Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) did this past winter.
“You must also consider the build-up to next spring. I would come close to an approach like that of Zdenek Stybar, and that is not the way I see the cyclo-cross season,” said Van Aert, who added that he had informed national coach Rik Verbrugghe of his decision.
It remains to be seen if Van Aert’s rival Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) will follow a similar tack next winter. The Dutchman made his Classics debut this spring and produced a sparkling run of results, winning Amstel Gold Race, Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl.
Van der Poel is the reigning cyclo-cross world champion and will place road commitments to one side over the summer as he focuses on mountain bike events. He is targeting gold in the cross-country event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Van der Poel is scheduled to ride the mountain bike Worlds in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada on September 1, and it is as yet unclear if he will then line out in the road event four weeks later.
Van Aert, meanwhile, is scheduled to race the Critérium du Dauphiné in June and the BinckBank Tour in August before shifting his attention to cyclo-cross as Autumn approaches.