Wout van Aert says he has recovered from a post-Tour de France slump and is looking for freshness in his build-up to the World Championships in Wollongong, with just three race days between now and the road race in Australia.
Wout van Aert won three stages and the green jersey at the Tour de France, as well as helping Jonas Vingegaard to the overall title. He took part in a number of post-Tour criterium exhibitions but pulled out of the Clásica San Sebastián and decided to take a proper break.
He returned to competition at the Hamburg BEMER Cyclassics on Sunday, one of four one-day races on his schedule ahead of Worlds on September 11, with the Bretagne Classic to follow this Sunday ahead of the GP Québec and GP Montréal in Canada the a fortnight after that.
“It was a disappointment when I had to cancel for San Sebastián. That was an outspoken goal, but my body clearly said ‘stop’. It just wasn’t there at that point,” Van Aert told Belgian newspaper (opens in new tab) Het Nieuwsblad.
“If you come out of the Tour well, your legs will normally stay good for a while. But if you don’t do much for two weeks, you lose a lot of fitness. It taken me almost two weeks to get a little healthy again.
“In the meantime I know that it was a wise decision not to go to Spain. The last two weeks I was able to train well again. The enthusiasm is back.”
Van Aert did more than ease his way back into the racing rhythm in Hamburg, launching a trademark acceleration on the Waseberg, dropping the pure sprinters and creating a five-man escape where he looked the clear favourite. However, Marco Haller surprised him with an early and powerful sprint and he could only scramble to second place.
“I should have been more concentrated,” Van Aert admitted. “An error of judgment. I won’t say that I would have won easily otherwise, but I just didn’t do this right.”
In any case, Van Aert took confidence from the rest of his ride and the prospect of plotting an upward trajectory towards Worlds.
He has already renounced the time trial – where he won silver last year – in order to go all-in on the road race rainbow jersey, and has opted for a light build-up, with just those one-day races, and no stage race like the Tour of Britain he dominated last year.
“Yes, I could have chosen a different program, but the past shows that I can also prepare well through training. By opting for one-day races, I can train a lot in between,” he said.
“Moreover, with the long journey to Australia, freshness is becoming an important factor at the World Championship. In that sense, I hope to have a little more surplus than the guys who will soon be riding stage races.”