Earlier this week, van Aert had announced on the team’s website that the 29-year-old would have a reduced cyclocross schedule to better prepare for the spring classics season. Perhaps the Giro was also behind the decision. However, earlier this month, Jumbo-Visma’s sporting director Merijn Zeeman had said that the team’s plans for next year’s Giro was to rely on their young riders, such as the newly signed 24-year-old American Matteo Jorgenson who won this year’s Tour of Oman and finished in the top 10 in the Tour de Romandie. But Zeeman also said that the team had low expectations of achieving a good result. “We want to send our younger talents to the Giro,” he said. “Top ten would be very nice, but the overall victory is not realistic with those young boys.”
It’s hard to believe that the team would ask van Aert to ride in the race and not go for the GC victory. It suggests that Jumbo-Visma may want to repeat their historic Triple Crown from this year when they became the first team to win all three Grand Tours in a single calendar year. If that’s true, then they must be confident that Jonas Vingegaard can win his third Tour de France yellow jersey in succession and also win the Vuelta or that Sepp Kuss could repeat this year’s surprising Vuelta success.
However, van Aert was instrumental in both of Vingegaard’s Tour victories, shouldering an enormous workload on the mountain stages, often solely pulling a breakaway intended to make the other teams ride in pursuit or, especially in 2022, leading the Dane up some of the race’s toughest mountains. So it is reasonable to ask how a busy spring classics calendar and then riding in the Giro – which actually suits van Aert with its two time trials and numerous punchy finishes –will affect the Belgian’s fitness for the Tour de France.
There is a month between the end of the Giro and the start of the Tour. Is that enough time to recover from that heavy schedule and train for the Tour? Not many riders ride in two Grand Tours in a row and of those that do, few perform well in both races. Chris Froome was the last rider to win two Grand Tours in succession when he won the Tour de France and the Vuelta in 2017. Before that Marco Pantani did the trick (Giro + Tour) in 1998. So, even though he has an enormous engine, it seems to be a lot to ask of van Aert to perform at his best in the classics, the Giro and the Tour – unless the team’s plans for him do not include the Tour de France, which is hard to imagine.
Confused? Me too. Especially as van Aert announced on social media with sponsor Red Bull that he would do a charity run in Breda on May 5, that’s one day after the Giro kicks off in Venaria Reale. All will be clarified, we hope, on December 22 during Jumbo-Visma’s team presentation.