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Wout van Aert leads Jumbo-Visma super team at E3 Saxo Bank Classic

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished 11th at the 2021 E3 Saxo Bank Classic
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished 11th at the 2021 E3 Saxo Bank Classic (Image credit: Getty Images)

Wout van Aert kicks off his Belgian spring Classics campaign at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday, with Jumbo-Visma naming their strongest possible squad to support him.

The E3 Saxo Bank Classic is a key test race for next week’s Tour of Flanders, covering many of the same iconic climbs and Flemish country roads. Jumbo-Visma will be looking for success and also to fine-tune their tactics and team unity around van Aert before the biggest races of the spring: the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.  

Tiesj Benoot is back in the Jumbo-Visma Classics roster after the nasty knee injury he suffered at Strade Bianche. He missed Tirreno-Adriatico but should still be a vital rider in Jumbo-Visma race tactics for E3 Saxo Bank Classic and beyond.

Also in the seven-rider lineup are Christophe Laporte, loyal domestique Nathan Van Hooydonck, Italian rouleur Edoardo Affini, Mike Teunissen and Tosh Van der Sande. The same riders will target Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, with Timo Roosen the only likely change in the place of Van der Sande.

Van Aert won the 2021 edition of Gent-Wevelgem and the Amstel Gold Race but was only 11th at the 2021 E3 Saxo Bank Classic after Kasper Asgreen and Deceuninck-QuickStep ruled the roost.

This year, the Belgian team has been hit with illness and injury, while Jumbo-Visma have strengthened their Classics squad by signing Benoot and Laporte.

Van Aert was sixth at the Tour of Flanders and then seventh at the end of season edition of Paris-Roubaix. He hopes a stronger team and a more select race calendar will boost his chances in the monument Classics, even if rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is due to return to the Classics after overcoming his back injury.

A stronger Jumbo-Visma team helped Van Aert win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then he was part of the 1-2-3 at Paris-Nice with Laporte and Primož Roglič before winning the time trial and helping the Slovenian secure overall victory.

"The spring is always short, with few chances," Van Aert told Sporza earlier in the season.

"The intention is to peak a little later than last year. In the spring I want to take the next step and try to win a Monument. I have already won Milan-San Remo. I especially hope for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix."

E3 Saxo Bank Classic will indicate if Van Aert is on track to win big.  

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.