Cyclo-cross world champion Wout Van Aert never expected to win the 2016 Tour of Belgium prologue, let alone beat the three-time time trial world champion Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) but that's precisely what the 21-year-old did Wednesday. The Belgian, who rides for Crelan-Vastgoedservice, covered the 6km course in 6:52 minutes to claim his first professional victory in the road and pull on the first leader's jersey of the race.
"I never expected this," said Wout Van Aert. "Of course I was hoping to do well. Together with my coach Marc Lamberts I really looked forward to this Tour of Belgium. But winning the prologue? No, that exceeds expectations.
"It was really suffering, because I did not have the impression that I was really doing well. I have to especially thank my coach because I have less experience with such time trials. I followed his advice.
A humble Van Aert, who went for McDonalds after his 'cross world win back in January, added that he was still coming to terms with his win but at the same time wouldn't be getting carried away with it.
"I beat a legend. It was really tough. I did not really have such a good feeling and therefore it surprised me that I had done such a good time," he added. "I even wonder how I did this up, I amaze myself. The condition must be good. I got a victory in my first road race in Belsele. Now I'm the best in the prologue of the Baloise Belgium Tour. That was an unlikely scenario. I try to peak for the national championships. After all, I must only focus on the coming cyclocross season, but I cannot deny that I take pleasure from this."
While Van Aert and his Continental teammates will face a tough ask to keep the jersey, he explained that they aren't intimated by the bigger teams and could cause another upset.
"The results show that we are strong," he added. "Of course Etixx-Quick Step, Lotto-Soudal and other World Tour teams are stronger in depth. But do not underestimate Crelan-Vastgoedservice. This year we have taken a big step forward. I want to silence those who claim that we have a less good team. Our team is able to control the race. Be sure of that."
Van Aert's victory also caught the attention of Etixx-Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere who expressed his desire to sign him despite the Belgian being contracted to Crelan-Vastgoedservice for a further two seasons.
Wout Van Aert riding to the prologue victory, two seconds ahead of Tony Martin of Etixx-Quick Step (TDW Sports)
Three Days of West Flanders to become a UCI 1.1 race from 2017
First run in 1945, the Three Days of West Flanders (Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen) will become a one-day race from 2017 and change its name to Dwars door West-Vlaanderen, the organisers have announced. "It's not a financial issue, but the burden of the organization us was increasingly heavier," organiser Rik Goethals said according to Sporza. "That's why we focus on a one-day race. We would like to be a match for category (similar to the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad). Our application was submitted to the UCI. Next season we will do it perhaps first with a 1.1-label."
Lotto Soudal's Sean De Bie won the 2016 edition of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen ahead of Łukasz Wiśniowski (Etixx-Quick Step)
Dwars door West-Vlaanderen will be held on April 5 next year, using a similar parcours the stage 3 of the 2015 edition, starting in Nieuwpoort taking in the Kemmelberg and finishing in Ichtegem.
South Africa sending Daryl Impey and Louis Meintjes to Rio Olympics
Orica-GreenEdge's Daryl Impey and Lampre-Merida's Louis Meintjes will represent South Africa in the Rio Olympics road race this August following confirmation from the South African Sports Confederation & Olympic Committee (SASCOC) on Twitter. Impey was South Africa's sole representative at the London Olympics Games, finishing in 40th place, having sent three riders to the 2008 Beijing Games; John-Lee Augustyn (26th), David George (79th) and Robbie Hunter (DNF).
"Daryl and Louis are a good combination and the course in Rio will suit their abilities – it's a climber's course and that is where Louis' strength will come in," said Cycling South Africa’s Road Commission Director, Bosseau Boshoff. "The recent form that Daryl has been showing in some of the tours, chasing down riders like Contador, has shown that he can support someone on a hilly circuit.
There was no announcement from SASCOC regarding the selection of female cyclists for the Rio Games with qualification open to June 1. An announcement will then be made July 14 regarding the riders.
Alexis Vuillermoz to make first racing appearance since Amstel Gold Race crash
Alexis Vuillermoz's Ardennes campaign was over before it started with the Frenchman crashing heavily in Amstel Gold Race and suffering a cranial trauma. Having won the Tour de France stage up the Mur de Bretagne last year, the AG2R-La Mondiale rider was seen a potential winner of La Flèche Wallonne but only makes his return to racing this weekend at the GP de Plumelec, a race he won in 2015.
"I recovered from my crash in Amstel Gold Race (April 17th). I still suffer from a shoulder but it's OK. Don't forget I had a concussion and I spent hard times during the following days. I have been resting 10 days," he said in a release from the team. "It's a pity. Except two crashes in Paris-Nice and Amstel Gold Race my results and my form were consistent (12th Tour de San Luis, 5th Criterium International, 15th Vuelta a Pais Vasco). Even better than in 2015."
The 27-year-old added that following a recent training camp, he is ready for his title defence in Plumelec.
"The last two weeks, I worked hard in a team training camp in Sierra Nevada (Spain). It was a good period with nice conditions," he said. "I ride GP de Plumelec on May 28th. It's a race I won last year and that suits me well. I hope I will be able to perform well."
Vuillermoz's next race is then the Criterium du Dauphine, followed by the French national championships, Tour de France and the Olympic road race. Vuillermoz won the Aquece Rio test event last year.