Screw in tyre sees Wout van Aert finish last for the first time

Belgian punctured before the gravel even began at the Clásica Jaén

Clock11:39, Tuesday 13th February 2024
A large screw ended Wout van Aert's chances at the Clásica Jaén

© woutvanaert on Instagram | © Tim de Waele / Velo Collection via Getty Images

A large screw ended Wout van Aert's chances at the Clásica Jaén

Cyclo-cross star Wout van Aert was a big favourite for Monday’s gravel-speckled Clásica Jaén, but luck was not on the Belgian’s side as a puncture took him out of contention before the off-road sectors even began in earnest.

Van Aert suffered a puncture on the entrance to the first sector — perhaps to be expected when dealing with gravel — but revealed on social media later that it was actually a large screw, rather than the surface, that afflicted him.

“It's a shame, I hadn't even seen a metre of gravel until my flat tire. It wasn't supposed to be like this today," he told Het Laatste Nieuws after the race.

Puncturing 52km from the finish, Van Aert swapped back tyres with his teammate Per Strand Hagenes, who went on to abandon, along with three more Visma-Lease a Bike teammates.

A photo of Van Aert’s tyre on the team car after the race revealed a large screw lodged in the tread.

“The race broke open the moment I had a puncture,” he said. “There was not much point in making Sepp [Kuss] and Jan [Tratnik] wait. I tried again, but it didn't work. I had Tim [Van Dijke] with me for a while and on that climb I tried to cross. But when that didn't work, I knew it was over.”

Read more: 'I didn't feel like quitting' - Wout van Aert battles back to eighth in unlucky Gravel World Championships

Though in the past races have been victim to members of the public throwing nails or tacks on the road, Van Aert’s puncture was likely just bad luck rather than the result of interference, with the race taking place on Spanish farm roads.

Going into the race, Van Aert was a big favourite for the win, but that instead went to Oier Lazkano (Movistar) from the breakaway, with the Belgian unable to rejoin the main group after his puncture.

In the end, Van Aert finished dead last in the official results, the last to come over the line from just 45 finishers, six and a half minutes down on the winner.

The race had already had much of its gravel sectors removed due to poor weather, but remained an attritional race, with more than half of the 96 starters abandoning after either dropping out of the explosive race or suffering mechanicals.

Despite only three of their riders finishing, and Van Aert unable to live up to expectations, Visma-Lease a Bike came away from the race with positive results, with Jan Tratnik and Sepp Kuss animating the four-man group that went in pursuit of Lazkano.

Read more: ‘The gravel is really fun’ – Sepp Kuss shows new verve at Clásica Jaén

Tratnik took third on the line, whilst Kuss finished sixth, only dropping out of the chase in the final kilometres.

Van Aert will continue his road season this week at the Volta ao Algarve, where he will be favourite for the punchier stages in Portugal.

For more of the latest racing updates, visit the racing news page.

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