Wout van Aert has dialled back his ambitions for the Tour de France after finding that his training has been set back by his recent surgery for appendicitis. His plan to target the race leader's yellow jersey in the first week is no longer realistic, he told Het Nieuwsblad.
"The original plan was to build to my best form after the Dauphiné and to be top from the first week of the Tour. That first week consists of difficult sprint stages and a time trial. That suits me very well. I had made a big goal of the yellow jersey in the first week," Van Aert said.
"I fear that this is no longer realistic. I will have to have more patience until I will be in really top form this summer."
Van Aert had a week off the bike after surgery three weeks ago and said he is the least strong of the riders at the current Jumbo-Visma team camp in the Sierra Nevada. However, skipping the Critérium du Dauphiné should give him time to build enough form for the Tour de France.
"We have our entire Tour team here in the Sierra Nevada and I am by far the least here. In principle, I can get to a good level of form through training and altitude camps, but it is uncertain what level I will be able to achieve. Every day I try to push my boundaries without forcing them," Van Aert said.
"Because of that operation, I almost had to start over from scratch. You can compare that with a winter break."
He also has to be careful to not put too much strain on his abdominal muscles.
"During the operation, they had to pass through my navel and three places in my abdominal muscles. I don't have much pain on the bike because the abdominal muscles are not strained much. It only hurts when I lean back or tense my abs. If I had to race cyclo-cross now instead of racing on the road, it would be much more difficult."
Van Aert's only race before the Tour was to be the Belgian Championships in mid-June but it now looks like he will miss that as well.
"If I were to ride the Belgian time trial championship, I would miss five days of the second altitude training camp in Tignes, and I will really need those extra training hours and the altitude stimulus," Van Aert said.
"When the altitude training camp in the Sierra Nevada is completed at the beginning of June, we will make an initial evaluation. Based on that, we then decide which is the best scenario; either I will no longer ride any races before the Tour, or only the Belgian road race, or both championships.
"I still hope to be top during the Tour, but that is anything but a certainty. If that doesn't work, I am sure that I will be top after the Tour. I'm not worried at all about Tokyo [Olympic Games] and the fall, with the World Championships and Paris-Roubaix. If everything goes according to plan and I can complete my training without delay, I can take many steps. Such a setback is never convenient, but because of what I have already experienced in the past, I can better manage this period."
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