Wout Van Aert opts out of World Championship time trial to focus on road race

HAUTACAM FRANCE JULY 21 Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Jumbo Visma Green Points Jersey competes in the breakaway during the 109th Tour de France 2022 Stage 18 a 1432km stage from Lourdes to Hautacam 1520m TDF2022 WorldTour on July 21 2022 in Hautacam France Photo by Michael SteeleGetty Images
(Image credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Wout van Aert will not participate in the individual time trial at the World Championships in Wollongong next month. According to Het Laatste Nieuws, the Belgian, who placed second in the event in the past two seasons, will instead focus his efforts on the road race.

“On the one hand, it’s a pity, because with Wout van Aert at the start of the time trial, you have a big chance of a medal, but on the other hand, I understand the decision,” Belgian national coach Sven Vanthourenhout told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“A time trial like that requires good preparation, and I understand that Wout wanted to make a choice.”

Van Aert placed second to Filippo Ganna in each of the past two World championship time trials, losing out by just five seconds to the Italian in Bruges last year. 

Van Aert hinted in May that he would probably not target the time trial in Australia and waited until after the Tour de France to confirm his decision to the Belgian national team. He won the final time trial stage at the Tour de France but wants to focus fully on the road race. 

Van Aert will line up among the favourites for the rainbow jersey in the road race after his remarkable 2022 season.

The 27-year-old won three stages - including the final time trial - and the green jersey at the Tour de France while helping his Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard to final overall victory. Earlier in the year, Van Aert won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, though his Classics campaign was subsequently interrupted by a COVID-19 diagnosis.

In Van Aert’s absence, Remco Evenepoel will carry Belgian hopes in the discipline. Evenepoel took silver behind Rohan Dennis in Yorkshire in 2019 and he claimed bronze on home roads last year.

Vanthourenhout’s time trialling options also include Yves Lampaert, who won the opening stage of the Tour de France in Copenhagen, and former Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts.

“It’s a mental issue. When Wout starts in the time trial, he puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders, because for a rider like him only the very best result is good enough," Vanthourenhout said.  

"For someone else, a silver medal can be fantastic, but not for him. Last year Wout was disappointed for a few days after the time trial, that silver medal hurt him mentally.”

Van Aert has ridden several post-Tour criterium but opted not to ride last Saturday's Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa due to fatigue. He will now take a break but he is expected to return to competitive action at the BEMER Cyclassics in Hamburg on August 21. 

The Bretagne Classic (August 28), Grand Prix de Québec (September 9) and Grand Prix de Montréal (September 11) also feature on his schedule before the Worlds road race, which takes place in Wollongong on Sunday September 25.

The Belgian squad for the Wollongong road race is also likely to include Evenepoel, who highlighted his credentials with a dominant victory at the Clasica San Sebastian. 

Already winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl is now targeting the general classification at the Vuelta a España.

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