Wout Van Aert's move from cyclo-cross to road racing took another step forward on Tuesday with the presentation of the new jersey of his Crelan Charles cyclo-cross team, and more details on the Verandas Willems-Crelan road team he will ride for during 2017. The two teams are closely linked, with former rider Nick Nuyens now managing the Professional Continental road team, while Niels Albert manages the cyclo-cross squad.
Van Aert will have a world champion's version of the Crelan Charles jersey for the New Year and then pull on the road team's colours after the cyclo-cross season ends in February. The cyclo-cross team has four riders: Van Aert, Jappe Jaspers, Tim Merlier and Dutchman Stan Godrie. The road team will have a 12-rider roster with Stijn Devolder and Timothy Dupont as team leaders for the Classics.
Van Aert showed his road racing talents in 2016 by winning the prologue of the Tour of Belgium and the end of season Schaal Sels that includes dirt roads. He is under pressure in Belgium to switch to road racing and target the spring Classics.
"I am delighted to be part of this new team. I'll continue with cyclo-cross, but can follow a nice road programme on this team, and so prepare for the cyclo-cross races. I want to ride short stage races like the Tour of Belgium and Ster ZLM Toer, besides some one-day races," Van Aert said at the presentation of the jersey.
"The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix is part of my dream, but that certainly won't be in 2017. If I ever race Flanders it will have to fit into my program. I want everything planned in advance, so I will continue for a while as a cyclo-cross rider. The aim is to be a stronger rider and that can come from having a solid road programme."
Nuyens has worked hard to move into team management and is hoping the Willems Veranda's-Crelan team will secure wild card invitations to the major Belgian Classics after stepping up from Continental level.
"It was not easy to get this project off the ground, but we've been pretty successful. We managed we put the puzzle together. We are unique in the cycling world, for the first time there is a Pro Continental team both in cyclo-cross and on the road.
"Our road team departs on Wednesday for Calpe for a training camp. Charles is a new sponsor; they had previously been active in the sports world and are now in cycling, where Willems and Crelan are well known.
"We hope to have a good road programme. That would be logical because we’re a Professional Continental team. I hope the Belgian race organizers will help us participate in the bigger races. We have a solid team, with guys like Stijn Devolder and Timothy Dupont, within our ranks. Devolder wants to shine again. Dupont wants to confirm his results of 2016 and with Van Aert we have the world cyclo-cross champion in the team."