Wout van Aert has finally given his answer on whether he will race the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the end of the month and the answer is a firm 'no'.
Speaking to Sporza after winning his home race at the X2O Trophy in Herentals, the three-time world champion said his last cyclo-cross race will be the Belgian championships on Sunday.
The Jumbo-Visma rider will instead begin preparing for his 2022 road season, a suggestion his coach Marc Lamberts hinted at in November when he told Het Laatste Nieuws that he would prefer that Van Aert skip Worlds to focus on the Classics.
"In this point in my career, we're focussing on other things. I really want to win a Monument in the spring which I missed out on in the previous years," Van Aert said.
Looking to that, we think it's better to finish my season after Nationals on Sunday and after that focussing on the road."
The news comes hours after reigning world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) announced he was ending his 'cross season due to a back injury.
"The Belgian Championship on Sunday will be my last 'cross race this winter," Van Aert confirmed after his win in Herentals.
"It was always the intention not to ride the World Championships, although the enthusiasm was of course great. But we have decided to stick to the original plan."
Van Aert won his eighth race of nine on Wednesday and only lost at the Hulst World Cup because of a mechanical, having had to chase from the back of the race on lap one to fourth.
Without him and Van der Poel at Worlds, the elite men's race will be missing two of its most dominant riders, who have shared the past seven world titles between them.
"The fact that I had such good legs in recent weeks, of course, made [the decision] less easy," Van Aert said. "It is always a difficult choice to miss such a great race, but my goals are in the spring and I am now concentrating on that."
Although his main goals are in the Spring Classics, at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Van Aert added that "cyclo-cross remains my first love, which is why I have put so much energy into it in recent weeks.
"You also have to prepare specifically for such a World Championships and you also waste a lot of mental energy on it. Moreover, because it is in the US, you still suffer from jet lag for a week afterwards. Now I will give myself four weeks calmly prepare for spring."
Van Aert reacted to the absence of Van der Poel before the race on Wednesday, saying it was a "great pity" that his old rival had to end his 'cross season.
"I wish him the best and I hope he can be there again soon. Cyclo-cross misses him, but the cycling world in general needs riders like Mathieu."
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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