Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has expressed interest in riding the time trial at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, though he has said that he "will not beg for selection." He will face stiff competition for Belgium’s second berth from Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts. Remco Evenepoel has already secured selection after winning the European time trial title and placing second behind Rohan Dennis at the World Championships.
Van Aert announced himself as a time triallist during his first year at WorldTour level when he claimed a surprise victory on stage 4 of Critérium du Dauphiné and then followed up by winning the Belgian time trial title. He was forced to abandon the Tour de France after crashing heavily on the stage 13 time trial in Pau and he has yet to return to action, thus missing the opening part of the cyclo-cross season.
“I’m not saying no to the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics,” Van Aert said, according to the Belga news agency. “If I can prepare well for the Olympics, I can get good results there.”
The two riders selected by Belgium for the time trial must also form part of the five-man team for the road race, which takes place on July 25, four days before the individual time trial. “I have less of a chance than a climber on a course like that, but I’m convinced I could help my teammates,” Van Aert said. “I’m ready to work for them, that’s clear.”
Injury denied Van Aert the chance to ride at the European Championships and World Championships, where he could have guaranteed Olympic qualification according to Belgium’s selection criteria.
As only Evenepoel has secured an Olympic place, Van Aert remains in contention together with Campenaerts and, perhaps, Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Campenaerts’ mechanical problems at the Worlds time trial cost him what might have been a podium spot and Olympic qualification, though Van Aert pointed out that he had endured his own misfortune by missing the Yorkshire race through injury.
“Before my win in the time trial at the Dauphiné and the Belgian Championships, people maybe didn’t think of me as a time trial specialist. Now things are different,” Van Aert said. “It’s because of my injury that I couldn’t go to the European Championships or the Worlds, so I didn’t have the chance to qualify.
“It’s a pity that Victor had problems at the Worlds, but I couldn’t prove myself there either.”
Campenaerts, who leaves Lotto Soudal for NTT (formerly Dimension Data) this winter, has reportedly already discussed his possible build-up to Tokyo Olympics with the Belgian federation, but Van Aert has not resigned himself to missing out on the berth.
“Of course, my rehabilitation is the most important thing,” Van Aert “It’s up to the federation to contact its best time triallists. I’m not going to call them, and I don’t intend to beg for selection.”
Van Aert has stated that he intends to return to cyclo-cross action during the Christmas period. “That would be the dream scenario, just to participate and have fun,” Van Aert. “Then I would like to ride the Belgian Championships and be in top for the World Championships, but I don’t know if that’s realistic now."