Bart Wellens will return from illness to ride the World Cup cyclo-cross race in Koksijde, Belgium, despite protest from some of his compatriots. National coach Rudy De Bie announced Belgium's final eight-man selection on Monday evening.
The Belgian team will be led in the November 29 race by Niels Albert and Sven Nys, with the other six places going to Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout, Erwin Vervecken, Bart Aernouts, Dieter Vanthourenhout, Sven Vanthourenhout and Wellens.
On Saturday, Dieter Vanthourenhout and Jan Verstraeten said they would protest Wellen's inclusion in the race, as he has missed most of this season due to a virus. Vanthourenhout was originally named as a reserve, and Verstraeten was not nominated at all.
De Bie told Sporza.be his reasons for nominating Wellens. “I have monitored Bart in training, helped by my brother who is his team manager. We also learned from his doctor how his tests went, and I myself spoke to Bart,” he said. “And you can hardly ignore the status that Bart has [in cyclo-cross].”
The coach said he understood the position of the riders who had protested. “They are professionals who wish to exercise their profession. Now they see a source of revenue pass them by,” he noted. “We have discussed this over the last few days and the riders respect Wellens. But there will always be a bitter feeling, because there is not a place for everyone. That is unfortunate.”
De Bie does not expect to see Wellens on the podium. “No, that would not be logical. If Bart can achieve a solid finish, he will be satisfied.” He added that he was not certain of Wellens' condition, noting, “It is a bit of guesswork.”
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