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Hermans 'powerless' as pre-Worlds COVID-19 test comes back positive

MIDDELKERKE BELGIUM JANUARY 09 Quinten Hermans of Belgium competes during the 105th Belgian National Cyclocross Championships 2022 Mens Elite bkmiddelkerke on January 09 2022 in Middelkerke Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Quinten Hermans will have to pass up a golden opportunity (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

In the absence of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, this weekend's Cyclo-cross World Championships represents a golden opportunity for many, but Quinten Hermans will have to watch it sail by. 

After placing seventh at the Hoogerheide World Cup on Sunday, the Belgian took a COVID-19 test in order to clear the way for travel to the USA for Worlds, and it came back positive. While his teammates travelled to the Fayetteville via Chicago on Monday, Hermans was in isolation, his world championships hopes over.

Having recently picked up podiums at Gullegem and the Belgian nationals, Hermans had been hitting some good form. What's more, earlier in the season he won the World Cup round in Fayetteville, where the world title will be contested on Sunday.

As such, Hermans described himself as "powerless" in a statement expressing his disappointment.

"I performed well in Hoogerheide, felt healthy and ready to battle for the medals in Fayetteville. I worked incredibly hard the last couple of weeks and months to be able to line up in the best circumstances," he said. 

"We avoided as many risks as possible, for example by testing daily or by not joining Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at its January training camp. But on Sunday evening I was informed about the positive PCR test result and I have no other choice than renouncing for the World Championships.

"I feel very powerless in this situation and I will need some time to get over this disappointment."

Hermans' absence weakens the Belgian block but they still have a number of candidates for the most open Worlds in years, including Eli Iserbyt, Toon Aerts, Laurens Sweeck, and Michael Vanthourenhout.

They'll be up against the bookmakers' favourite, Tom Pidcock of Great Britain, and the European champion Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands. 

Belgian Cycling called up Toon Vandebosch to replace Hermans on Sunday evening and the 22-year-old made it to Brussels airport for the morning flight to the USA.Vandebosch finished ninth at Hoogerheide at the weekend and is currently sitting 13th in the world rankings.

Belgian junior Xaydee Van Sinaey will also miss the world championships in Fayetteville after also testing positive for COVID-19. The junior national champion will not be replaced in the Belgian team.

This is not the end of the season for Hermans. There are still several races back in Belgium after Worlds, while the 26-year-old also has the road season to look ahead to. However he will have to make a full recovery from COVID-19 and then undergo a series of medical check-ups before starting serious training. 

He made his full road season debut last year at WorldTour level with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, riding the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia and marking himself out as a promising puncheur.

"We believed in the chances of Quinten Hermans in the battle for the rainbow jersey next weekend and we are of course sad that he is excluded from it in this way," said team boss Jean-François Bourlart.

"Despite the great disappointment of the brutal end of his cyclocross season, we are convinced that many fantastic moments are awaiting Quinten in 2022."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.