It wouldn’t be a post-Worlds period if we did not have some speculation about Wout van Aert’s future in cyclocross.
Last year, even though the WorldTour was on his horizon, Van Aert confirmed that he would be racing a full cyclocross season in 2018/19, and as we saw, he did. Despite pre-season contract issues, Van Aert raced the two U.S. World Cups and continued to race through the World Championships in Bogense and his season finale at Maldegem on Wednesday.
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His return to cyclocross for the current season made a lot of sense. He won nine races in 2017/18 and capped the season with his third-straight World Championship.
This year, however, has been the most trying of the young star’s already impressive career. Prior to the season, Van Aert signed with then-Lotto-Jumbo WorldTour team for the start of the 2020 road season.
In September, Van Aert started the cyclocross season by breaking his contract with Sniper Cycling after a falling out and racing the Waterloo and Jingle Cross World Cups as an unattached rider, albeit one of the most talented unattached riders in cycling history.
After returning to Europe, he signed with Cibel – Cebon to race the balance of the 2018/19 cyclocross season.
Even with a team, the season was a challenging one for Van Aert. With Mathieu van der Poel on a historically dominant run, Van Aert was largely relegated to finishing second and only won four races during the season. His biggest win was the Pont-Château World Cup that Van der Poel skipped.
When Van Aert moved up his WorldTour timeline by signing with Lotto – Visma beginning on March 1, some folks wondered if the move signaled the end of Van Aert’s full-time cyclocross racing.
In a story in Het Laatste Nieuws, Van Aert’s manager indicated the plans are for the Belgian to race cyclocross next year.
“Nothing will change,” says Jef Van den Bosch, who is the manager of Wout van Aert. “Wout will follow the same route, exactly as it has been in the past years. He drives on the road and he remains a ’crosser. We have made good agreements with the people of his Jumbo team.” (translated)
Van den Bosch validated what a lot of observers thought—the off-the-field drama had a significant mental impact on the three-time world champion.
“That was very difficult. We have tried to approach that as positively as possible. The impact was nevertheless great. Wout was mentally a wreck in the summer. He did not feel well at all anymore. I am sure we will see the old Wout van Aert again in the next ’cross season.” (translated)
Although great battles between Van Aert and Van der Poel did not necessarily materialize on the cyclocross course, the two will get the chance to race against each other on the road this spring.
Van der Poel’s Corendon – Circus team has received wild-card bids for a number of one-day spring races, including the Tour of Flanders and the Amstel Gold Race. Stay tuned for coverage of these races this spring as we will definitely be paying attention to how the two young phenoms fare on the road this coming season.