Cyclocross World Champ Wout van Aert has recently confirmed his intentions to focus on a road racing career. Although he announced last December his plans to cut this coming season’s cyclocross schedule short by twelve races, the Belgian has reiterated to Sporza his goal of stopping his cyclocross season after the 2018 Cyclocross World Championships in Valkenburg to focus on getting ready for the classics.
Speculation of Van Aert’s possible switch in focus already started when the Crelan-Vastgoedservice cyclocross team merged with Veranda’s Willems road team. Now an exact plan is forming, with the hope that his team might secure a spot at the bigger classics. Van Aert has been eyeing Paris Roubaix in particular, saying that the cobbled classic “perhaps suits me best.”
The Belgian Van Aert may be hoping to follow the pedal strokes of three-time Cyclocross World Champ Zdenek Stybar, who has had success at Paris Roubaix. The two spoke while training in Mallorca, when Stybar wished the World Champ luck and offered some advice.
Van Aert is certainly not the first cyclocross champion in recent years to switch priorities. Dutch star Lars Boom and Zdenek Stybar, half of the dominant four male cyclocross racers earlier this decade (the others being Albert and Nys), famously made the leap to focus on pounding pavement. Even domestically, perpetual Cyclocross National Champions Coryn Rivera and Logan Owen have prioritized road careers over cyclocross after dominating the junior ranks in ’cross.
Van Aert still plans to race the U.S. World Cups and defend his rainbow jersey this coming season, and maintains next year’s road season will be a test and isn’t yet a full commitment to making the switch. “I’d like to first try and experience the classics. Then I can later decide to make the switch to the road,” he said (translated).
Fans have been warned, however. Enjoy and savor this season’s beautiful duels with rival Mathieu van der Poel, before one of them surrenders to the pulls of the pavement peloton.