Last time we saw Wout van Aert (Jumbo – Visma), he was struggling to just walk while recovering from an injury suffered at the Tour de France in July. At that time, Van Aert’s team indicated that the 2019/20 season was likely going to be a wash for the 3-time world champion.

A few weeks ago, Van Aert was spotted at the beach. No, he was not relaxing during rehab, he was kitted up and working on bike shouldering drills.

As it turns out, Van Aert’s practicing of cyclocross-specific skills was a sign he is planning to return to the mud and ruts sooner rather than later.

Today, before the Urban Cross in Kortrijk, Van Aert held a press conference to announce his plans to return to cyclocross less than a month from now at Azencross Loenhout.

I don’t expect to be able to do much in the field this season,” Van Aert said at the press conference [translated,]. “That makes sense, because I come from very far away. I will be very happy when I get the green light to get to the start. I will, of course, give the best I have to give of myself, but we also have to be realistic. The other boys are already running a lot and so getting in so late will not be easy, especially after that injury. I hope to be cyclist again step by step.”

Van Aert also talked about his recovery from the injury he suffered four months ago during the Stage 13 time trial at the Tour.

Yesterday I cycled 125 km without major problems, but cross-country riding is more than just cycling. On and off the bike requires a lot more from my hip. We are still working on improving that. The intention is that if I make my return, it is not a step back in my recovery.

Van Aert said the goal of returning to cyclocross is in part to continue his preparation for the 2020 Spring Classics. He is hoping to be ready for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February.

Van Aert kicked off the week with another win, albeit in a much different venue.

Van Aert’s former team manager Nick Nuyens sued him for €1.1 million for breaking his contract at the start of the 2018 cyclocross season, but a judge dismissed the suit and awarded Van Aert legal fees after ruling Van Aert had an “urgent reason” for breaking the contract.

Stay tuned for all things #woutwatch related.

Featured image: Bart Hazen