Battle lines drawn with Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel set for six cyclo-cross clashes

Jumbo-Visma confirm limited calendar for Van Aert, with no World Championships, as Belgian says he has a 'heavy heart' about lack of racing

ClockUpdated 16:45, Thursday 16th November 2023. Published 11:22, Monday 13th November 2023
The battles between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel on the 'cross scene have been limited in recent years

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

The battles between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel on the 'cross scene have been limited in recent years

Jumbo-Visma have confirmed Wout van Aert’s cyclo-cross calendar after several media outlets in Belgium, including Het Laatste Nieuws, reported on Monday that the three-time world champion would race a limited schedule.

An official announcement from Jumbo-Visma on Tuesday confirmed that Van Aert will race a provisional calendar of ten races, with the final two subject to change. At present, a tilt at the World Championships is not planned.

The schedule confirms that Aert will race against his long-term cyclo-cross rival, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), on just six occasions, with the Belgian starting a little earlier than the Dutchman.

"It's a conscious decision to do a shorter programme", Van Aert said in a press release from his team. "Last year, I found it mentally difficult to focus on the cyclo-cross 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", he continued. "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."

The 29-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, who is currently in Colombia to race Rigoberto Uran’s Gran Fondo, will start his cyclo-cross campaign at the Exact Cross in Essen on December 9.

He will then race the double-header of Exact Cross Mol and the Antwerp round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup two weeks later on December 22 and 23.

He will then line up for the festive double of the World Cup in Gavere and the Superprestige in Heusden-Zolder on December 26 and 27, the World Cup in Hulst on December 30, and then the X2O rounds in Baal and Koksijde on January 1 and 4.

Just six of these overlap with Van der Poel's confirmed programme: Mol, Antwerp, Gavere, Hulst, Baal and Koksijde.

Jumvo-Visma added that Van Aert may also race the World Cup rounds in Zonhoven and Benidorm but they listed these events as 'subject to change' as they clash with the team's road training camp. It seems that Van Aert's plan is to limit his cyclo-cross campaign in a bid to remain fresh for the 2024 Spring Classics.

The Belgian missed out on winning a Monument in 2023 and is set to make the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix the main focus of his early-season campaign.

Van der Poel had previously confirmed his participation in a much lengthier cyclo-cross campaign that will include 15 races. The Dutch rider, and current ‘cross and road world champion, will start his season at the Exact Cross in Mol on December 22, alongside Van Aert.

Van der Poel will race six World Cup races and is aiming for a sixth world title in Tabor in February. He will also take a mid-season break during his ‘cross-calendar to link up with his Alpecin teammates for a road-based training camp.

Britain’s Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) has yet to announce his full cyclo-cross campaign.

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