The heady days of the cyclocross duels between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel seem to be winding down as the Belgian announced a curtailed campaign that will see the two riders face to face in only six races, all during the ‘Kerstperiode‘ festivals around Christmas.
Van Aert will start earlier than the Dutchman, taking on the Exact Cross in Essen on December 9. The first face-off with Van der Poel will be at the Exact Cross in Mol on December 22, where the Dutchman makes his season debut.
The duo will also clash at the UCI World Cup rounds in Antwerp, Gavere, and Hulst, with the December 27 Superprestige round at Heusden-Zolder their other match-up.
Van der Poel, who is set to take on around 15 races this cyclocross season, has the Superprestige Diegem and Exact Cross Loenhout on December 28 and 29, therefore avoiding another clash with Van Aert in Heusden-Zolder.
“I am looking forward to starting the cyclocross again soon. It’s great to see the fans again. These races are always special for me,” Van Aert said on the Jumbo-Visma team’s website.
“It’s a conscious decision to do a shorter programme,” He competed in 14 ‘cross races last season, winning nine before finishing second to Van der Poel at Worlds.
“Last year, I found it mentally difficult to focus on the cyclocross season and then move on to the spring. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance with the Spring Classics. That is why, with a heavy heart, I am riding a more limited programme.
“It will definitely be difficult to reach a high level. I have a few races to get in shape, and then it will stop already. I hope to prove myself during these races. For the first time, it will be different from what I am used to, but with a higher goal in mind.”
In January, Van Aert will ring in the new year on the X2O Trofee round in Baal – otherwise known as the GP Sven Nys – on January 1. Three days later he’ll race the X2O Trofee in Koksijde. Both races see him take on Van der Poel again.
The team stated that Van Aert’s participation in the Zonhoven and Benidorm World Cups later in the month is uncertain because they bracket the team’s training camp and would contribute to fatigue in the run-up to the spring road season.
Van der Poel is set to take on both of those events, likely fitting around an Alpecin-Deceuninck camp in Spain as he did this year. He rounds out his cyclocross season with the late January races at the X2O Trofee in Hamme, the World Cup in Hoogerheide, and with a defence of his…