Van Aert ‘shocked’ by dominance of ‘super strong’ Van der Poel

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Joined: Nov 2016

Published 02/01/2024 at 17:49 GMT

Wout van Aert admitted his surprise as the “super strong” Mathieu van der Poel dominated another race to beat the Belgian by almost two minutes. Van der Poel sealed his eighth race win of the cyclo-cross season to remain undefeated, but Van Aert admitted he was not too concerned. “Is this a disappointment? I had hoped to make it more difficult. But I know what I am doing,” he said.Highlights: Van der Poel wins in Baal to extend unbeaten run

Van der Poel clinched another victory on New Year’s Day, ousting second-place Van Aert once more. The 28-year-old beat his Belgian counterpart by nearly two minutes in the latter’s home country to maintain his unbeaten start to the campaign, where he has won all eight races so far.

Following another defeat to Van der Poel, Van Aert admitted he was taken aback by the sheer dominance of his rival, but backed his own approach to the overall cycling campaign.

“I was shocked by that [the time gap], to be honest. Mathieu was super strong,” Van Aert said. “If you win by two minutes, you are simply much better.

“Is this a disappointment? Well, I had hoped to make it more difficult for Mathieu. But I also know what I am doing.”

The 29-year-old has trimmed his cyclo-cross calendar this year to be as fresh as possible for the Spring Classics, and beyond that towards the 2024 Grand Tours on the road.

‘Another demonstration!’ – Van der Poel wins in Baal to go eight from eight this season

Van Aert has two cyclo-cross races remaining, one of which is the X2O Trofee Koksijde on Thursday, before he joins up with the Visma-Lease A Bike team for a training camp on the road in preparation for the upcoming spring races.

After that, he will cap off his cyclo-cross season in Benidorm for the World Cup at the end of January.

With Van der Poel’s form in mind, Van Aert isn’t entirely confident he will manage to sneak a win.

“If you see how Mathieu is riding now, I have to be realistic,” Van Aert explained. “It will be very difficult to win one of the two races I still have to ride. It is what it is.”

Despite a disappointing winter period, Van Aert’s priorities are very much on the Classics Campaign as he bids for a stronger finish this year.

Last year, he won E3 Harelbeke but came up short in the decisive races which consequently defined his campaign.

Van Aert’s new coach Mathieu Heijboer explained why the rider has deliberately scaled back his cyclo-cross campaign.

“We want to continue to improve in a steady manner, to be ultimately at our best in April,” Heijboer said. “This means that you do not have a peak now, but that you increase a little every month.

“It was different last year. Back then, his level was also very high in the cyclo-cross period. That was followed by a dip, both physically and mentally, and he was also ill.

“And in the end, we suddenly ran out of time when it came to preparing for the spring.”

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