World champion Wout Van Aert is back from training in Spain and ready to tackle the upcoming UCI World Cup races in Namur and Zolder, but first he'll start this weekend with the DVV Verzekeringen Trofee-Scheldecross on Saturday in Antwerp.
Van Aert joined other top cyclo-cross riders at the end of November on a short training trip to Spain, spending his time in the warm weather in Calpe and dialling in his form before the calendar picks up speed.
"The break has done me good," Van Aert told nieuwsblad.be. "I've been able to follow my schedule as perfectly as I'd hoped. The sensations on the bike were good, and my climbing's been getting better. I've also been able to get plenty of rest, including on a mental level. With the extra-sporting worries I've had in the past few months, I needed it."
Cyclingnews reported last month that although the UCI gave Van Aert permission to seek a new road team for 2019 after his bitter split from Veranda’s Willems-Crelan, the governing body may still take action against him should he lose the legal case against his former team in the Belgian courts. The time in Spain was a chance to refocus his mind on racing after an autumn full of difficulty.
Van Aert is following the same path as last season, when he returned from a break and finished second to rival Mathieu van der Poel in Antwerp, then took the win at the World Cup in Namur the following weekend and again a week later at Waaslandcross. He went on to win the cyclo-cross World Championships in Valkenburg.
"I'm hoping for a similar scenario, although things have been pretty different for me this year," Van Aert told nieuwsblad.be. "I was hoping to be more consistent this year, but obviously a number of things happened that prevented me from reaching my hoped-for level. Although I've still been on the podium a lot, people don't remember that. A fresh start? It makes little sense to say that the season really starts for me now – that's crazy. I just hope that I can show myself a bit more now."
After Scheldecross, Van Aert and the rest of the World Cup peloton will head to Namur on December 3 and Zolder on December 26.