Wout van Aert says that he’s working hard to secure a new contract and plan for his long-term future in cycling. The three-time cyclo-cross world champion has plenty of interest from WorldTour teams after a sterling spring campaign on the road, with Bahrain-Merida having already offered him a contract.
Van Aert’s current contract with Veranda’s Willems Crelan, ties him to the Belgian Professional Continental team until 2019, including the forthcoming cyclo-cross season. Van Aert could potentially break his contract but the team are understandably keen to keep him onboard. Van Aert says that he’s giving his current team time to step up and ‘become stronger’ but that he may have to be ruthless in his decision-making.
"I am working hard on that. I want to have news about that in the short term. I've also said that to those involved. I want to make the decisions as quickly as possible. My next contract is one for two or three years and then I have reached an age where I want to take steps in my career,” van Aert told Belgian broadcaster VTM.
"The requirement is that my current team will become stronger with a view to spring. Otherwise, I have to look for other solutions. They have a little time, but I have to be 'hard' and look at my own career. That is perhaps the advantage that I have in the world at a young age.”
Taking on Van der Poel, remembering Goolaerts
Wherever van Aert chooses to go, he plans to continue combining his cyclo-cross ambitions with the road. In recent years, van Aert and Dutch counterpart Mathieu van der Poel – who is also branching out of cyclo-cross – have dominated the winter sport. However, van Aert had a difficult start to last season and is keen to take it to Van der Poel this time around.
"The combination with cyclo-cross was actually better than expected. That is why I am now working hard to prepare myself as well as possible for the cyclo-cross season. I want to duel with Mathieu again. I do not want to miss a second winter in the world champion jersey.”
Van Aert’s comments came in a documentary made by VTM, which followed him and his fiancée Sarah De Bie ahead of their wedding at the weekend. With van Aert preparing for the second part of the road season, ahead of the start of cyclocross season, there won’t be much time for him and his new wife to enjoy newly-married life.
“We won’t really have a honeymoon. The idea was to do a honeymoon in advance, after Paris-Roubaix, but that didn’t happen due to circumstances. But, that is how life is together. A few weeks ago, we went to South Africa, which was nice,” he said.
Van Aert skipped his planned trip to New York after the death of his teammate Michael Goolaerts during Paris-Roubaix. Van Aert says that he regularly thinks of his teammate and is determined to do something for him at next year’s Paris-Roubaix.
“I still think a lot about Michael. I am often reminded of him, but that is not wrong,” said van Aert.
“I often listen to songs that remind me of him. This is how I keep him in my mind. It is bad, but you often realise how much time you spend with someone when that person is no longer there. His death hit us hard. I didn’t know that you could be so close with teammates. I definitely want to go to Roubaix and put something right for Michael.”