Wout van Aert’s surprising win at the 2018 Cyclocross World Championships puts him in special company with just 12 other riders who have won at least three world championships.
At just 23 years old, Van Aert is well on his way to moving up in the pantheon of Worlds winners toward the coveted pinnacle shared by seven-time winners Marianne Vos and Eric de Vlaeminck .
Despite his success at ’cross, Van Aert has made it no secret he has his eyes set on the spring Classics, including the Paris-Roubaix, this upcoming season. At quick glance his desire to race on the road can be taken as an indication he plans to leave cyclocross soon, but Van Aert has maintained he wants to give the Classics the old college try before making any definitive choices about his future.
“First I want to see if the Classics are something for me,” Van Aert said (translated). “If that is the case, then I can always decide to make the switch to the road later on. “For the time being, I still like to ride in the field. I am also the world champion, so I do not think I can stay away, and I do not want that either. The choice between the cross and the road has not arisen yet.”
Van Aert’s Spring plans got a big boost right before the cyclocross World Championships. Van Aert has said he thinks the famed cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix might fit him best, and fittingly, his Verandas Willems-Crelan road team received a wild card spot for the 2018 edition of the famed cobbled race.
During the Worlds post-race press conference, Van Aert said even with the spot in the Paris-Roubaix, he is not ready to say goodbye to cyclocross for now.
“I always [said] that I want to check how it goes in the Classics season. I want to do that without pressure and look at it as a learning process. Afterward, I will choose how I’m going to fill in the next season.
But of course, with this white jersey again, this isn’t a goodbye to cyclocross. I’m enjoying the sport too much, again today with these crowds and this course, the sport way too beautiful to say goodbye.
Well see how we do next season. Of course, I don’t plan to put in a season like this every year. I want to be more consistent. That is definitely not my goal to do it always like this.”
Even with Van Aert reaffirming his commitment to cyclocross for at least the next year, training partner Stephen Hyde was encouraging Van Aert’s road career after the race.
“Mentally he is very strong and with his move to the road ahead, this will only give him an extra boost,” said Hyde about his friend. “He can become the new Tom Boonen.”
Mathieu van der Poel has committed to cyclocross through 2020 with his eyes set on the 2020 Olympics. As he showed with his dominant ride in Valkenburg-Limburg, Van Aert is the one rider right now who can keep the Dutch phenom in check. Van Aert has given indication he will be back to try to bring back the beautiful duels that were absent this season and go for his fourth-straight world championship, a feat that has only been accomplished by four other riders.
For more from Valkenburg-Limburg, see our dedicated 2018 Cyclocross World Championships page.