Wout van Aert will end his cyclo-cross season at the Belgian National Championships on Sunday, but insisted that his record of eight wins in nine races does not mean he is the automatic winner in the sand dunes of Middelkerke, near Ostend on the Belgian coast.
Belgian national coach Sven Vanthourenhout has predicted that the elite men’s race could be over in a U-turn due to Van Aert’s apparent superiority. However, his rivals include World Cup winner Eli Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout and Toon Aerts.
“If everyone thinks this way it will be an easy day. But I’m sure Sunday will be the most difficult of all the cross country races I’ve run this season, ”Van Aert told Belgian media on Saturday after doing a reconnaissance of the Middelkerke course ahead of the junior and women’s races.
“In a championship, there are always runners who can do something special. Of course I’m the favorite, but the race must always be run, right?
“I’ll make sure I’m okay. Only one place counts in the Belgian championships. But I don’t think there will be someone at the start who will compete for second place. You never win a championship easily.
Van Aert didn’t start his cyclo-cross campaign in the Boom Superprestige race until December 4 and included a Jumbo-Visma training camp in his schedule. While his rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was hampered by a back injury, Van Aert got better and better, winning every race he raced except the World Cup de Hulst on January 2 when he was slowed down by a mechanical problem and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) propelled to victory.
Despite a great chance to clinch a fourth cyclo-cross world title, Van Aert chose not to travel to Fayetteville in the United States for the world championships. He focuses on the spring classics and wants to train in Europe rather than battling jet lag.
Of course, he wants to end his campaign with another Belgian title.
“I will take advantage of my last cross. The campaign has gone very well and I want to end this on a clear note, and then turn my attention to the road season, ”he explained.
“Next week it will become clear what my road program will look like. Making choices is necessary, like skipping the cyclocross world championships. I noticed it last year. It is also important to ensure mental peace. But first, I want to take this tricolor.
Van Aert completed eight laps of the Middelkerke then added a half hour of road training. He spends the weekend on the coast with his wife Sarah and his one-year-old son Georges. He will travel to Alicante on Monday for training camp and the presentation of the Jumbo-Visma team.
“It’s a great Belgian championship course,” he said. “With the beach part, it makes you think a little of the World Cup in Ostend. You really dive into the dunes, I think it’s well designed. It’s always hard to get a feel for a whole new course, but I think it’s perfectly fine.
“The wind certainly plays a role and that can make things difficult when it comes to a melee. If you’re in the driver’s seat then, you really have an advantage. “
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