Half an hour with Van Aert, the best cyclist in the world: "I feel like we are changing cycling"

“I nonetheless weigh an excessive amount of to attempt to win the Tour,” says the three-time cyclocross world champion, a terrific star in Benidorm, who right now hosts a World Cup occasion within the midst of formidable expectations.

Van Aert, through the World Cup check in Herentals.JUMBO VISMA

wout van aert He’s just a few hours away from contesting his first skilled race in Spain and he walks relaxed via the corridor of a resort conquered by the black and yellow Jumbo Visma. It’s the day earlier than a cyclocross World Cup occasion wherein the expectation is most and his standing as absolute favourite (he has gained eight of his 11 races this winter, within the different three he was second), however the Belgian he has spent virtually 4 and a half hours on his bike this morning, protecting 145 kilometers on the roads of Alicante. I do not care about relaxation. In actuality, no one rests, he clears with a half smile earlier than a small group of Spanish journalists.

Right here, in a secluded urbanization in Mutxamel, Van Aert established his coaching camp on January 9 as the primary season of a 2023 that’s intense. He’s accompanied by his spouse and his little Georges. Together with the Mediterranean, it combines explosive coaching with lengthy runs and, as well as, foot races that strengthen your muscle groups. He would not simply search for the solar. A couple of days in the past she publicly denounced the harassment suffered by his determine in Herentals, the place the place he resides. She took herself out of context a bit. I perceive the dimension that biking has in my nation and that the eye paid to me is rising increasingly. However they’re normally very well mannered, he clarifies, shocked, for the higher, additionally by the Spanish followers who will vibrate right now in Benidorm with their duel in opposition to Mathieu Van der Poel Y thomas pidcock.

He at all times says that he strikes for challenges. Why will you be struggling in your profession 4 or 5 years from now?
Good query. In fact, I’ve some concept. However, for now, I need to proceed being the bike owner of right now, competing within the classics, making an attempt to win phases within the grand excursions. Attempting to keep up the identical profile and add careers to my report that I nonetheless haven’t got. I nonetheless have rather a lot to win, Roubaix, Flanders, the World Cup… huge objectives. For now, that is what’s on my thoughts.
But when Jonas Vingegaard failed within the Tour…
[Re] I nonetheless weigh an excessive amount of to attempt to win the Tour.
What’s your restrict?
I do not like to consider my limits.
Roubaix and Flanders are his huge targets. Do you’re feeling a thorn in there?
Sure, particularly in Roubaix I’ve by no means had any luck. It’s a race wherein you must run completely, however one thing has at all times occurred to me or there was somebody stronger. In these races particularly each element will be decisive. Hopefully someday luck will probably be on my aspect.
Van Aert, on the Zonhoven podium, with Van der Poel and Sweeck.
Van Aert, on the Zonhoven podium, with Van der Poel and Sweeck.JUMBO VISMA

Is it extra particular when the one you defeat is Van der Poel?
I at all times attempt to do my finest regardless of who’s within the race. Even with out Mathieu, it is extremely troublesome to win. Due to his talents, he at all times pushes me to the restrict, beating him is rarely simple. However what’s particular is successful after a battle within the final meters, like in cyclocross. It is extra about how the race ends than who you win.
Do you’re feeling that you simply, Van der Poel, Evenepoel and the others, together with your method of working on the assault, are altering biking?
Sure, I really feel like we’re altering biking. Truly, you may see one thing completely different within the final three or 4 years. I additionally love seeing others, like Alaphillipe or Pogacar, in Flanders. That is implausible for the followers. It is a present all season lengthy. It’s one thing new that has not been seen earlier than. All the time with an aggressive working type.
When you do not assault, you do not take pleasure in?
[Re] I at all times have a plan. I at all times attempt to win.
Do you’re feeling extra strain on the highway than in cyclocross?
The followers anticipate him to win each cyclocross race. However personally I do not really feel the strain there anymore, as a result of I’ve principally gained every little thing there may be to win. I really like this sport and that is why I come again yearly.
Do you assume it is possible for you to to mix each all through your profession?
I feel so, I have been doing it for 10 years. As a toddler I didn’t dream of being knowledgeable bike owner, I appreciated Tom Boonen like everybody else in my nation, however I dreamed of cyclocross.

It will likely be troublesome to do it once more

Van Aert’s 2022 was wonderful. Hardly ever was a show within the Tour as wild as his, as a result of this time he not solely gained once more in all terrains, within the dash, escape and, in fact, within the battle in opposition to the clock, to already accumulate 9 victories from stage within the Large Boucle -and that in his first contact, round 2019, he suffered a fall in Pau that was about to finish his sports activities career-. Sure vingegaard raised his arms in Paris it was because of him, even if he by no means stopped on the lookout for leaks. My assaults are a part of the plan, he was relying on to clear up Jumbo’s obvious bewilderment.

I feel this 12 months the workforce is even stronger, which is an effective factor. However, alternatively, final 12 months was very profitable, with the Tour win and every little thing else. It will likely be troublesome to do it once more, he assures, though the classics don’t depart his thoughts, nor who will probably be his rivals and his allies. With Van Baarle (new reinforcement of the Jumbo and winner in Roubaix forward of him) I’m very complementary. We even have laportea Benoit…with our greatest workforce within the classics we have now a number of choices to win, not simply me, he admits.

Van Aert and Van der Poel, in Herentals.
Van Aert and Van der Poel, in Herentals.JUMBO VISMA

Which Spanish bike owner do you presently see finest?
To Valverde [Re]. If he comes again… as a result of I see how he trains. Together with her palmars it has been the highest for a very long time. I like them very a lot Enric Mas and Peio Bilbao, who gained this week on the Tour Down Beneath. But it surely’s onerous to decide on one, I do not need to get into hassle.
Do you take pleasure in struggling?
In fact, I wish to undergo on the bike. When you do not, you may’t be skilled.
By the best way, do you bear in mind your first bike?
S. I bear in mind my first race. I had an outdated bike that my father tailored for me. She was made from iron and had gears below the handlebars, one thing very outdated even for the time. My father needed to see if I actually appreciated him earlier than shopping for me a dearer bike. I began in cyclocross and that was the place my goals have been, as a result of I did not like faculty very a lot. There have been two huge stars in my area, Erwin Vervecken and Bart Wellens, who have been world champions. I needed to be like them.