Four months after a career-threatening injury, van Aert and four teammates test equipment on the cobbles.
He and his Jumbo-Visma team-mates rode the famous pavé in Northern France, called the Hell of the North, to test equipment including their new Bianchi Infinito CV disc bikes. He rode 83km over some of the famous sectors, including Cysoing, Mons-en-Pévèle, and Carrefour de l’Arbre.
The Belgian three-time cyclo-cross champion only began his rehab on the road this month after the crash that he described as potentially “career-ending.”
“Work trip with the boys,” van Aert wrote on Instagram. “It was a rough, but beautiful day in the office.”
Van Aert rode the cobbles with Maarten Wynants, Mike Teunissen, and Amund Jansen. They tried material they’ll need later in the Spring Classics season, above all for Paris-Roubaix on April 12.
“We did these tests so that we will have all the material available when needed,” a team spokesperson told Het Laatste Nieuws.
“If you still have to test later during the season, sometimes you don’t have everything ready on time.”
They tried different types of tires, and high and low rim profiles on their Bianchi green bikes. The roads were wet and cold, with temperatures around 50°F.
Van Aert is only one month into his rides back on the road. After months of rehabilitation at a clinic and at home, he trained outside on his bike November 1. Since, he has tried cross riding in the sand and other preparations for the upcoming season.
He would like to compete in a few cyclocross races before the season ends but his goal is to be ready for the Spring Classics in March and April.
“I’m going to do everything to ride a few ‘cross races,” van Aert said in September. “I just have to see how realistic it all is. The question is how good my shape will be.
“Getting in top shape is no problem, but I miss muscle mass on the right where my deep flesh wound was.”
The crash was a major setback. He clipped a barrier during the Pau time trial stage in the Tour de France. His debut in the race, which included a stage win and helping Jumbo-Visma to the team time trial win, ended in an ambulance.
Judging by the ride over Paris-Roubaix’s cobbles, however, van Aert’s shape appears to be on track. The team remains cautious.
“We prefer to wait two days too longer than to bring him one day earlier to the races,” said the team. “When and whether he will be seen [racing cyclocross] this winter is not certain.”
Van Aert is meeting with the rest of the team for its winter training camp in December, 11 to 19. The team for 2020 includes Tom Dumoulin, coming from Team Sunweb, Primoz Roglic, winner of the Vuelta a España, and American Sepp Kuss.
The ride completes a good couple of days for Van Aert. A labor court in Belgium ruled in his favor Tuesday in a case with his former boss.
Team Manager of Veranda’s Willems-Crelan, Nick Nuyens, had demanded €1.1million for breach of contract after van Aert left the team one year early at the end of 2018. He later joined Jumbo-Visma, making the successful jump to the WorldTour.
Nuyens, a former Tour of Flanders winner, is appealing the decision.