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'Paris-Roubaix will be one of my big goals again in 2021' says Van Aert after cancellation disappointment

Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert wins stage 7 of the 2020 Tour de France
Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert wins stage 7 of the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The cancellation of this season's rescheduled Paris-Roubaix – which was set to take place on October 25 – has come as a big disappointment to both fans and riders alike.

Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert said that he was now "extra motivated" to do well at the Tour of Flanders, and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was left disappointed that he'll now have to wait to make his Roubaix debut, while the injured Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), who thought that it was a "pity" that the race won't happen, could put a positive spin on the situation in that he should now be able to defend his title when the race returns to its April calendar slot in 2021.

"It is, of course, a big disappointment, as Paris-Roubaix is one of my favorite races", Van Aert said in a video message published by his Jumbo-Visma team, according to Het Nieuwsblad on Friday.

"I've worked really hard to be good up to Roubaix," he said. "Now the season will be a week shorter, and only a few goals remain – of which one is the Tour of Flanders [October 18], of course.

"For me, it's small consolation that I've already achieved a number of great victories and had a great season," said this year's Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo winner, who also won two stages at the Tour de France. "I'm now extra motivated to make something of the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem [on Sunday].

"Hopefully those races will go ahead as planned, with good measures [against the coronavirus]," he said. "Roubaix will be one of my big goals again in 2021."

Another favourite for this year's race – despite having never ridden Roubaix before – was three-time cyclo-cross world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).

"I was really looking forward to finally being able to finish 'The Hell of the North' for the first time," Van der Poel said, according to Het Nieuwsblad, and we had planned to do a course reconnaissance with the team next Wednesday.

"Paris-Roubaix was of course one of my big goals, and should have been my fifth Monument this season," said the 25-year-old, who'll also line up for the Tour of Flanders on October 18. "It's a shame that I won't be able to complete that list [of all five Monuments], and will have to wait until 2021 to be able to ride this legendary race.

"Due to the cancellation, the importance of the upcoming races, with Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, respectively, will only increase. On the other hand, it appears that the choice to add Liège-Bastogne-Liège to my programme was the right one," said Van der Poel, who finished sixth at Liège last weekend.

The winner of the 2019 edition of Paris-Roubaix, Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), said that he thought that it was a shame that the race couldn't be held, although he could also look on the bright side, stating that it meant that he's likely to now be able to attempt to defend his title next year.

The Belgian was forced out of the opening stage of the Tour de France after a crash left him with a broken kneecap, but he returned to racing action at the Tour de Luxembourg just over two weeks later, before deciding that he'd miss the cobbled Classics after some knee pain returned, although he hasn't ruled out starting the rescheduled Vuelta a España on October 20.

"It's a real pity that Paris-Roubaix has been cancelled," Gilbert wrote on Twitter. "Rendez-vous next year on the cobbles of 'The Hell of the North'. At least I'll have the chance to defend my title in one of the toughest races on the calendar."

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