© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Wout van Aert pacing Jonas Vingegaard and dropping Tadej Pogačar on the stage to Hautacam in the 2022 Tour de France

To win the Giro d'Italia, Wout van Aert needs to transition to top climber after Paris-Roubaix, says Ineos coach

Kurt Bogaerts on the pros and cons of the Jumbo-Visma star's potential GC bid at the Giro

Clock11:33, Tuesday 21st November 2023

Following Wout Van Aert’s decision to target the Giro d’Italia in 2024, the front pages in Belgium have centred on the credibility of the Belgian’s prospects of mounting a general classification challenge.

Jumbo-Visma have remained tightlipped on Van Aert's plans, not even confirming his participation in the Giro, but rival team coach Kurt Bogaerts from Ineos Grenadiers has weighed up some of the pros and cons for Van Aert, highlighting both the rider’s talents and the major challenges he might face.

Van Aert has never targeted the GC in a three-week race, with his previous experience limited to sprints, time trials and super domestique roles. He has won brutally difficult stages, including a mountain stage in the 2021 Tour de France that included two ascents of Mont Ventoux.

He has also enjoyed incredible days that have seen him drop the likes of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), but the notion of altering his training, schedule and physical attributes raises valid questions over how he maintains his racing level across a multitude of road aims.

“We’ve seen with Van Aert that he can have some really good climbing days in the Tour de France,” Bogaerts told GCN.

“Next year at the Giro d’Italia it’s 10,000m less in altitude than this year, so that’s beneficial but there are still some really hard stages, like the Stelvio, and some really critical days where he’ll need to be at the top of his game.”

Much of Van Aert’s Giro progress will depend on how seriously he targets the Spring Classics. His natural ability aligns with the one-day racing scene, and he has yet to win either the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix.

Should he try to combine the cobbles of the Classics with the climbs of the Giro, which lie one month apart, he could be forced to make serious adaptations or curtail his aims in the first part of the season.

“It’s an interesting one to follow – if he does the Classics campaign, and if he can make the transition in the weeks after Paris-Roubaix in order to be a top climber. That’s what he’ll need to be to win this race,” Bogaerts added.

Consistency is key

While the flashes of brilliance Van Aert has shown in the Tour de France have excited fans and resulted in glory, the reality is that consistency wins Grand Tours. Bogaerts was not critical of the Belgian rider’s attributes but he did ponder whether the rider could maintain the sort of level required to win a race over three full weeks.

“There are a good amount of TT kilometres in the Giro but there are stages in the mountains that go over 2,000m, where the lightweights have an advantage,” he said.

"He could be an exception to the rule and we saw two years ago that he could drop Pogačar when he started riding for his leader, and he still finished third that day. Wout has these extremely good days in the mountains sometimes. I don’t know enough about his real data and if he can repeat it all for 21 days but it’s an interesting one to follow – to do the juncture from the Classics to the Giro.

“It could be a case of which basket he puts his eggs in. Sometimes riders like to do a different programme, and sometimes they like to do something new in order to keep them on the top of their game and excited.”

Ineos have yet to confirm their own Grand Tour plans for 2024, with Geraint Thomas linked to both the Giro and the Tour.

“We go through all of that as a team and we’ve already done some days of homework but we’re far from there,” Bogaerts said.

“We have several good riders who can do well but there are no decisions made as far as I’m aware. It’s an interesting one for us to make good teams.”

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