"I never had the feeling that I had expected. I really thought that today I'd be much better than last weekend, but that wasn't the case at all, which was unfortunate," Van Aert told HLN on Sunday, comparing his performance in Boom to the previous weekend, when he took third places at both the X²0 Badkamers Trofee in Kortrijk and the opening round of the World Cup in Tabor.
"It's not that I'm disappointed – this is a result according to expectations," he said, having only made his return to cyclo-cross last weekend after a full road season, "but after last week, I was just hoping for more. I may have been too optimistic. In the final, those other guys were just a lot better."
The race was won by Eli Iserbyt, ahead of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Michael Vanthourenhout and Telenet Baloise Lions' Toon Aerts.
Van Aert admitted that he hadn't had the best start, and had been at his limit throughout the race. Asked whether Sunday's hilly course in Boom was the hardest of the three 'cross races he's done so far this year, Van Aert continued: "Technically, yes. I think you could see on the descent each lap, I had nothing left. Towards the end, I didn't even know what to do; I just couldn't get through. It didn't turn out the way I wanted.
"It didn't go well, technically, but your condition plays a part in that. If you're in good condition, you make fewer mistakes. It's no coincidence that I fell immediately after Eli's attack," Van Aert said of his crash on a corner with two laps to go, which allowed eventual third-place finisher Aerts to get back on terms. "That's simply what happens when you're at your limit.
"In the final, I had nothing left, and finished fourth as a result. When Eli went, he quickly got a good gap," he said of winner Iserbyt's decisive move on lap seven of the nine-lap race. "When Eli gets a gap like that, he can build a nice advantage very quickly, and he used that ability again today. I finished fourth, and there's not too much more to it, as my legs didn't feel great."
On Monday, Van Aert will return to Girona, Spain, for an individual training camp, HLN reported.
"I won't be taking my cyclo-cross bike," he said, despite Jumbo-Visma sports director Jan Boven saying last week that Van Aert will be concentrating more on his cyclo-cross skills. "I'll be training there on my road bike, and I'll be there to train to get fitter. The intention is for me to be really good during the Christmas period, and so we're going to work on that now. I just have to get better overall."
Van Aert will return to 'cross racing again at the second round of the World Cup in Namur on December 20, where he'll meet reigning world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) for the first time this cyclo-cross season.
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