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Wout van Aert: Combining road and cyclo-cross is a win-win situation

Belgian Wout Van Aert crosses the finish line at the men elite race at the cyclocross cycling event in Tabor Czech Republic the first stage of the World Cup cyclocross competition Sunday 29 November 2020 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is in action at the Superprestige in Boom on Sunday but the Belgian admitted that he is still building form for late December, by which time his longstanding rival Mathieu van der Poel will have started his cyclo-cross season.

The Superprestige in Boom will be Van Aert’s third cyclo-cross event of the winter. Last weekend, he placed third at both the X²O Badkamers Trofee in Kortrijk and the opening round of the World Cup in Tabor.

“I think I've already gained a few percentage points in the past few weeks. In principle, I should have improved a bit,” Van Aert told Sporza. “In Boom, I hope to do better than a third place. It certainly won't be easy, but the intention is to get closer to victory.”

After Sunday’s race, Van Aert will travel to Spain for a training camp that will keep him off his cyclo-cross bike for ten days, but he hopes to be ready for his first head-to-head of the winter with Van der Poel at the Namur World Cup on December 20.

Van der Poel and Van Aert have shared the past six elite men’s world titles in the discipline and their rivalry has transferred to the road in recent years. Van Aert claimed his first Monument at Milan-San Remo in August and Van der Poel responded by pipping the Belgian in a two-up sprint at the Tour of Flanders in October.

“I hope to be able to enter the duel,” Van Aert said of the Namur World Cup. “It’s been a long time since I was on the top level in cyclo-cross.

“Mathieu is technically very strong, and that’s a big advantage in cyclocross. But I was able to beat him in the past, so hopefully I can in the future as well.”

Beyond the Christmas period, Van Aert has designs on both the Belgian Championships in Meulebeke on January 9 and the World Championships in Ostend on January 31 before he turns his attention once again to the road.

Van Aert was one of the outstanding performers in the revised 2020 road season, landing Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, as well two stages of the Tour de France, where he was one of Primoz Roglic’s key climbing domestiques. He went on to take silver in both the time trial and the road race at the World Championships, before placing second to Van der Poel at the Ronde.

“I see my cyclo-cross season as preparation for the road season, but I’m not riding without ambition,” Van Aert said. “I have already proven that they don’t have to get in each other's way. For me, it’s a win-win situation.”