Wout van Aert wants to get involved in the sprints in Dauphiné: “I need that incentive”

Wout van Aert wants to get involved in the sprints in Dauphiné: “I need that incentive”

Interview

Wout van Aert and Primož Roglič are the spearheads of Jumbo-Visma in the Critérium du Dauphiné, which starts today near Valence. CyclingFlash looked back on the spring with the Belgian champion, asked about his ambitions for this week and briefly discussed Tom Dumoulin’s decision to stop after this year.

With victories in Omloop het Nieuwsblad and E3 Saxo Bank Classic, podium places in Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, stage win, points jersey and six (6!) times top-3 in Paris-Nice, Wout van Aert can speak of a more than successful spring. And yet… Last spring the highest award – winning in a monument – ​​did not materialise. Partly thanks to a corona infection.

Are you satisfied with your spring?
“It’s double, isn’t it? You know the circumstances. Taking into account that positive covid test, I think I got the most out of it. Unfortunately, the virus has ensured that my original plans – achieving my very best level in Flanders and Roubaix – were thwarted.”

You are living proof that this virus spares no one. You avoided any risk. After Milan-San Remo you even flew back to Belgium with a private flight.
“I went far into that, yes. Now, a private flight also provides a comfortable travel feeling. Sarah and Georges had traveled to Italy after Paris-Nice and stayed there. Their presence was also one of the reasons why I booked that flight. Don’t think that this is everyday food. I’m just as much a Ryanair customer. In this case and at this stage of the season, however, I saw the added value in it. But despite all the measures, I was felled a few weeks later. The virus turned out to be stronger than my good will.”

Jumbo-Visma has started the spring stronger with the arrival of Tiesj Benoot and Christophe Laporte. Has that reinforcement paid off to such an extent that you can continue with it in the coming years? Or is there something extra to come?
“Until before the Tour of Flanders, we were dominant in every race. That was what we were looking for and we succeeded. We were decisive and took a step forward. Also the competitions in which I was not there, prizes were taken. You’re talking about Tiesj and Chistophe, but guys who were already there have also taken a step. Like Nathan Van Hooydonck.”

Van Aert in action during Liège-Bastogne-Liège, his last road race – photo: Cor Vos

“Do we necessarily need someone extra in the future? No! We now have a core with which we can win the biggest races, but of course I won’t say no if an extra strong pawn were won.”

Are there slopes to be walked? (Dylan van Baarle would make the switch, ed.)
“Slopes are being walked, but I can’t say anything about that.”

We are now at the beginning of June and you have had three weeks on the Sierra Nevada. Everything went well?
“Yes. Because I had added Liège-Bastogne-Liège to my program and my spring lasted a week longer, I only really got to grips with my internship too good start training. But I took a good step towards an important summer and today I am reaching the level I wanted to achieve. I am where I wanted to be now.”

In 2020 you were taking the last steps in your rehabilitation after that fall in the Tour of 2019. Last year you fell behind after an appendectomy. Do you have the feeling that you are now working on flawless preparation for the first time?
“I personally don’t see it that way. That rehabilitation after the fall in the 2019 Tour was already concluded at the beginning of 2020. I was already participating in the Omloop to win. In 2019 my preparation was also okay. Only last year I was behind due to that operation. I think I can count myself lucky as far as my health is concerned. Grateful too.”

The Dauphiné is your last week of competition towards the Tour de France. What ambition are you going to start with?
“Especially with a lot moral† The whole team, by the way. We are not going to start just to drive along. I want to get involved in the sprints myself. I need that incentive. And I hope to win a ride.”

Primož Roglič for the yellow, you for the green?
“That green is allowed, but not necessary. I also don’t know whether Primož wants to go for yellow. Building trust is more important. But I realize that we will be looked at. A lot of teams send their classification riders to the Tour de Suisse. We have again made the choice to ride the Dauphiné with part of the Tour team.”

To what extent is this match important towards the Tour selection. With Roglič, Vingegaard and yourself, according to Merijn Zeeman, there are only three certainties. What is true of that? And doesn’t that cause a little unrest?
“I didn’t notice any anxiety. And yes, it is different from the past few years, when everything was fixed much earlier. I think it’s the right choice, because a lot can still happen in the run-up to the Tour. Someone can get out of shape, get injured…”

“Then you may have to call up someone else who didn’t immediately have his mind on the Tour de France. Now the team management wants several guys to get ready. It’s no different with other teams.”

Van Aert is already familiar with the greenery in the Dauphiné – photo: Cor Vos

It’s your third Dauphiné. And without that surgery last year, it would have been your fourth. You who like variety, don’t you want to visit Switzerland sometime in the future?
“Actually yes (laughs, red). I do like variety, but in terms of timing the Dauphiné will probably always fit better in our program than the Tour de Suisse. Then you have to opt for one altitude stage and recover after that round until the Tour. We believe more in our approach and we want to stick to it.”

By which you mean a second altitude internship, between Dauphiné and Tour de France.
“Correct. We are convinced of the added value of that extra internship of ten or twelve days in Tignes, where we also get the chance to take our family with us. In addition, the team wants to let Jonas and Primož race together as much as possible. Splitting up between the Dauphiné and Switzerland is therefore not an option. But maybe it will fit later.”

Less good news was announced this week: Tom Dumoulin will stop permanently after this year.
“It’s not a very big surprise. Tom has never reached his level with us from before. That is not easy mentally and causes frustration. In the last Tour of Italy he hoped for a turnaround: a good final classification, or at least make progress. Unfortunately, it has become another disappointment.”

Do you understand why he doesn’t ‘just’ drop his classification ambitions and focus on one-day races and time trial? Without the pressure?
“That’s a difficult one. It’s not that Tom stood out so often in the classics. Certainly in the time trial, but if you have been this good as a classification rider, I can certainly understand that it is difficult to turn that button.”

“And every individual is different. In his stead I might be able to get some satisfaction and pleasure by filling in another important role in the team. This is clearly not the case with Tom. Then you should definitely show understanding for his choice. I think it’s a brave decision.”