Wout van Aert’s Momentum Unshaken Ahead of UEC Road European Championships, Asserts National Coach

By Monica Buck

Despite a recent hiccup in his health, Wout van Aert is gearing up to spearhead the Belgian team in the forthcoming UEC Road European Championships, as confirmed by the national coach, Sven Vanthourenhout.

Van Aert, aged 29, was unable to compete against Mathieu van der Poel in the Super 8 Classic over the weekend due to health concerns. His team, Jumbo-Visma, noted he was not entirely up to par, leading to a brief pause in his training regime, resuming on Sunday.

Vanthourenhout said that van Aert is slated to participate in both the time trial on the 20th of September and the road race on the 24th at the championship taking place in the Netherlands.

Discussing Van Aert’s brief illness, the national coach remarked to Het Nieuwsblad, “Wout stayed off the bike for a day or two. These were not crucial training days but, of course, illness is never the ideal scenario. Recovery always uses up energy.” Nonetheless, he maintains an optimistic outlook, stating, “I expect Wout to be fit. I know he was able to do what he had to in terms of training for the road race and time trial.”

Even though Van Aert’s preparatory phase hasn’t been as “intense” as it was during last month’s UCI Road World Championships in Glasgow – where he secured second and fifth places in the road race and time trial respectively – Vanthourenhout harbors no concerns about his athlete’s current form. This confidence is bolstered by Van Aert’s recent triumphs at the Tour of Britain earlier this month where he clinched a stage and the overall title, demonstrating the team’s dominating presence.

2023 UCI Road Championship
Van Aert at the UCI World Championships. © Profimedia

Vanthourenhout noted, “He hasn’t had the same intense preparation as for the World Championships, but he should certainly be competitive.” He emphasized the positive momentum Van Aert carried from the Tour of Britain, adding, “I don’t want to be negative – I look at the Tour of Britain where he was in good shape and mentally fresh.”

Focusing on the impending road race spanning 200km from Assen to the Col du VAM, including seven hill climbs, Vanthourenhout predicts a tightly contested sprint finish with a significantly reduced group. He is optimistic about the synergy between co-leaders Van Aert and De Lie enhancing Belgium’s prospects of a win.

“We explored the run-in to the local laps,” he shared, adding insights into the strategic approach, “We’re going to have a nervous and chaotic race where having two leaders only adds value. We’ll see a very thinned-out group and I don’t expect a sprint of more than 10 or 15. Hopefully, there will be two of us there.”

Vanthourenhout acknowledged the fluid nature of race strategies, stating, “A choice will always be made which can’t be estimated in advance. I have a clear idea about where the cards lie at the moment, but the race can always decide differently. We’ll make a good agreement between two honest guys who know that they will often ride championships together in future.”

Van Aert and De Lie are part of a formidable eight-member team set for the road race, including talents like Jasper De Buyst, Tim Declercq, Yves Lampaert, Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns, and Florian Vermeersch. The time trial in Emmen will see Van Aert and Lampaert represent Belgium, while the women’s team will be led by Lotte Kopecky in both the time trial and the road race.