Wout van Aert has ridden the Tour of Flanders course, calling it "a lot trickier than the other road races I already rode this year." The world cyclo-cross champion said that he is looking to finish in the top ten in his debut in the race.
The Verandas Willems – Crelan rider has put in an impressive early season on the road, finishing third in Strade Bianche and 32nd in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Nokere Koerse. "But the course of the Tour of Flanders is a lot more difficult," Van Aert told Sporza. "The succession of climbs is enormous and almost all of them are cobbled slopes."
Since the race is 262km in length, Van Aert has been working on his endurance. "I need these long training sessions to be able to handle the distances in the big races better, but now I do not do anything else, because I've always been training a lot of hours."
As to what he might do in the race, Van Aert said he would ordinarily not expect a top result in his first Tour of Flanders, "but I have performed well in recent weeks and I feel good, so maybe it should be my ambition to finish in the top ten."
He remained realistic, though, adding: "But it could just as well be that I get a knock from the hammer in the last hour and that I finish very far back, but of course we do not assume that."
Omloop was just 196km in length, and Van Aert acknowledged that the final hour or two of the Ronde will be a voyage into the unknown. "It remains to be seen how much power I will have left," he said.
Van Aert claimed a third successive cyclo-cross world title in February before switching his attention to the road.
"I have been able to hold onto the good shape of the World Championships so far, the question is how long I can hold on to this level," Van Aert said. "If it suddenly went less well, that would not be bad, because I have already showed nice things. For me, spring has certainly been a success."