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Jumbo-Visma cautious about Van Aert's return from COVID-19 for Paris-Roubaix

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) Belgium
Wout van Aert during 2022 Gent-Wevelgem (Image credit: Getty)

The Jumbo-Visma team are being extra cautious about Wout van Aert returning to racing at Paris-Roubaix after being positive for COVID-19, with a final decision expected on Thursday after the team completes a reconnaissance of the cobbled sectors.

Van Aert has reportedly been seen training in Spain since testing negative for the virus last Wednesday. He was forced to miss the Tour of Flanders and the Amstel Gold Race but could try to return for Paris-Roubaix in a support role and perhaps an outside chance of victory.

Van Aert was in superb form before catching COVID-19, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, finishing in the top three on six stages of Paris-Nice and then dominating E3 Saxo Bank Classic with Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte.

Jumbo-Visma have refused to speculate about Van Aert’s chances of riding Paris-Roubaix, simply telling Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws: “He is training.”

Van Aert has also stopped publishing his training data on Strava.

“We want to prevent speculation,” Jumbo-Visma general manager Richard Plugge informed the Flemish newspaper. 

“We have made a very clear agreement with our medical management that we should be more cautious than cautious. That’s also because we do not know the effects of Covid in the longer term. Your heart, your muscle metabolism, your lungs: it can all be affected.”

Plugge himself caught COVID-19 two years ago, and his personal experience of its potentially long-term effects has boosted his conviction that it is best not to be overly ambitious.

Jumbo-Visma’s precautions about the illness were notable even at the training camp in Spain early this year, where, unlike other teams in the same predicament, they promptly cancelled the entire camp after just one day when there was a case.

Jumbo-Visma say they are following his training program closely, but will carry out extensive testing before letting him return to racing.

The red line the Dutch squad  say they are not prepared to cross is taking risks with the health of their riders.

“There are still goals to come,” Plugge told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“Later this year and for years to come. I'd rather he now rest for two weeks, or three weeks, or five weeks for my part, if that is necessary so that he can race normally again afterwards. That's what we're looking at now: how much rest does Wout need?”

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.