Wout van Aert: The main goal for 2024 is the Giro d'Italia

Jumbo-Visma rider to race the Giro for the first time, as confirmed in an interview in Colombia

Clock10:24, Wednesday 15th November 2023
Wout van Aert has impressed at Tirreno-Adriatico in the past and may target the GC at the Giro d'Italia

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Wout van Aert has impressed at Tirreno-Adriatico in the past and may target the GC at the Giro d'Italia

For the first time in his career, Wout van Aert looks set to ride a Grand Tour other than the Tour de France, with the Jumbo-Visma man confirming to Colombian media that his main target for 2024 will be the Giro d'Italia.

Rumours had gathered for months that the Belgian would target the season's first Grand Tour, with some reports even suggesting that Van Aert may target the GC rather than just hunting for stages, as has been his modus operandi since joining the Dutch team in 2019.

Van Aert is currently in Colombia to ride the Giro del Rigo, organised by fellow professional Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost), along with the likes of Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellín - EPM). It is a trip that has seen Van Aert all smiles over the past week, and his generous mood offered the definitive word over his calendar for next year to Colombian TV channel RCN - as reported by Mundo Ciclístico.

"Mainly the Giro d'Italia," replied Van Aert when asked what his main goal was for 2024. He further expanded that he likes Italy for its "atmosphere, gastronomy and the warmth and expressiveness of its people."

Van Aert has never ridden the Giro d'Italia, but has lined up at Tirreno-Adriatico on two occasions and of course, won both Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo in 2020. His participation at the Giro d'Italia next year will likely be in the role of team leader, whether he goes for GC or targets stage wins. That is because Jumbo-Visma are set to line up at the race without a previous Grand Tour winner.

Could Wout van Aert target GC at the Giro d'Italia?

Sepp Kuss ruled out riding the Giro d'Italia when speaking to GCN at the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium, whilst reigning Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard has shown little ambition to stray from his usual build to his main goal in July. With defending Giro champion Primož Roglič leaving the team for Bora-Hansgrohe over the winter, this leaves Jumbo-Visma with a certain amount of flexibility for the first Grand Tour of the season.

Read more: Sepp Kuss rules out starting Giro d’Italia in 2024

Reports had suggested that the Dutch team had already pencilled in their lineup for Italy - namely Van Aert, Attila Valter, Thomas Gloag, Matteo Jorgenson, Ben Tulett, Johannes Staune-Mittet and Per Strand Hagenes - however, these claims were quickly dismissed when GCN approached sports director Merijn Zeeman for comment.

Read more: ‘I don’t know who is making this up’ - Jumbo-Visma dismiss Giro d’Italia line-up reports

However, Van Aert's declaration in Colombia at least confirms one member of their starting eight for the Giro, and given his stature in the team behind Kuss and Vingegaard, the Belgian will surely get to dictate his own terms for leadership in Italy.

As was revealed last month, the Giro route will contain 68.2km of time trialling, along with a somewhat neutered final week of climbing, both characteristics that will suit Van Aert as a super time triallist with the ability to prosper over long - but not steep - climbs.

Read more:

Time will tell whether or not he does go into the race with ambitions of finishing inside the top five, but with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) possibly the only former Grand Tour winner set to line up at the start in Turin, there is no reason for Van Aert to fear spreading his wings.

Eddy Merckx should be a source of pride, not pressure, insists Van Aert

Second place at the 2021 Tirreno-Adriatico had Belgian tongues wagging at the prospect of Van Aert becoming the latest Grand Tour winner from their country - with only Johan De Muynck (1978 Giro d'Italia) and Remco Evenepoel (2022 Vuelta a España) winning a three-week race for the country since Eddy Merckx's last Grand Tour win in 1974.

But Van Aert was quick to bat away the idea of pressure falling on Belgian shoulders as a result of Merckx's almighty legacy.

"I don't think it has to be a reason for pressure," he told RCN. "Rather, I think it is a reason for admiration and pride, but it would be a mistake to want to compare yourself with him because it is a real reference not only for cycling in Belgium but in the world with an unattainable track record."

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