Victor Campenaerts has been forced to dial back his preparations for next season due to a knee injury, but the Belgian time trial specialist has pinpointed the Olympic Games time trial as his main objective in the short-term future. Such a goal would have a possible impact on a UCI Hour Record attempt, even though Campenaerts announced his decision to take on the record earlier this year.
"At the beginning of my preparations for next season, I bumped my knee against my handlebars. I felt there was something going on, and I went on an Olympic training camp with the Belgian team and they did some tests," Campenaerts told Cyclingnews at Lotto Soudal's recent training camp in Mallorca.
"They found some fluids and that there was something going on so I stopped for a bit. After two weeks it got worse. I'm currently doing an alternative programme with a lot of swimming and core work but I'm not on the bike.
"For sure this is not the plan that I had but you see this happen a lot with cyclists who have this and in the end they have really good seasons because they have more freshness. I go to Namibia on January 2nd for an altitude training camp. The goal is to there with no pain in the knee. If I go there, have no problems with my knee, then I'm 100 per cent sure that I won't be behind schedule. If the knee isn't ready then getting in shape on time might be a real problem. Then we'll have to reschedule things."
Campenaerts has already been on the track and carried out tests on a possible Hour Record attempt. His ideal location for a challenge would be at altitude at Aguascalientes, in Mexico, but the Olympic time trial in Tokyo in 18 months remains his main target. The Belgian finished third in the World Championships time trial this year behind Rohan Dennis, a previous holder of the Hour Record, and Tom Dumoulin. Both riders are expected to be the main favourites in Tokyo, with Dennis also considering an attempt on the Hour, too.
"My main goal is to become Olympic champion, not to break the Hour Record. If I think that it might interfere with the Olympics then I will not do it. At the moment I will do the Giro d'Italia because that will make me stronger, and I need to be stronger so I can beat Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin in Tokyo."
Campenaerts came into cycling relatively late, but forged a pedigree as a swimmer and then a triathlete before focusing on his current discipline. He may not have a deep knowledge of cycling's rich history but one rider stands out above all others in his mind.
"I used to be a swimmer, and then a triathlete until 2010. My father was always into cycling but when I was around 10 it wasn't like I was a cycling fan. I have to say I've never been a cycling fan and I only have one idol, and that's Bradley Wiggins. He gave me the Kristallen Fiets (Crystal Bike) trophy a few weeks ago and it was amazing. I was so stressed to take it from his hands. Even after I go the trophy and we were drinking beers I was too shy to talk to him because he's such a big idol for me."
The idea to take on the Hour Record was first raised at this year's Vuelta a España. A few days before the event a rider attempted but failed to beat Wiggins's record of 54.526km set in 2015, but the result was enough to get the Lotto Soudal riders speculating on the team bus.
"After each stage someone would make a joke about me doing the Hour Record and by the end of the Vuelta I booked a velodrome to do some tests," Campenaerts said.
"The tests were really good. It had been 10 months since I'd been on the track and the day before I did one hour just to recover from the Worlds. Then I did half an hour on the track with a standing start, but without the best equipment, and we took the pace we needed to break the Hour Record. I could have broken the Hour Record that day but it's not like that. If you want to do it, it's a whole process to get the UCI over there. If you want to do it, it's like a whole big plan. First we need to make sure that the knee is healed, and then we can see when it's a good time to do it."