On Dec. 9, Wout van Aert will mark the start of his cyclo-cross season at the Exact Cross Essen. The former cyclo-cross world champion, eager to return to competition after a two-month hiatus, acknowledges a deliberate shift to a shorter racing schedule. Despite being less frequently on the field than last year, the Team Jumbo-Visma rider emphasizes the strategic choice behind this decision.
“It’s a conscious choice to ride a shorter program,” the 29-year-old Belgian said. Reflecting on the mental challenges of balancing a full cyclo-cross season with a seamless transition to spring classics, Van Aert explains, “I have decided for myself that I don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to the spring classics. That’s why, with a heavy heart, I’m riding a more limited program.”
Acknowledging the difficulty of reaching a high level with a condensed schedule, the former world champion notes, “I have a few races to get in shape, and then it stops. I hope to be able to show myself in the race. It will be different for the first time than I’m used to, but it’s with a higher purpose in mind.”
Van Aert’s seasonal highlight is anticipated around Christmas, with races in Mol, Antwerp, Asper-Gavere, and Heusden-Zolder on his agenda. Expressing enthusiasm for the upcoming cross season, he adds, “I’m looking forward to getting back into cross soon. It’s nice to meet the fans again, and the races are always special to me.”
Whether he races the Zonhoven or Benidorm World Cups is still undecided. There may be potential conflicts with the team’s January training camp and concerns about accumulated fatigue before and after the camp factor into the final decision on fitting these races into the spring buildup.