Anyone who enjoys cyclocross enjoys watching the duels between Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and Belgian Wout van Aert. While Van der Poel appears to be winning everything at the moment, Van Aert has the knack of being on form at exactly the right moment. He has managed to win the UCI Cyclocross World Championships three years in a row.
Wout van Aert, strong from the start
Wout van Aert is 24 years old and therefore at the beginning of his professional cycling career. He began in the junior riders category in 2013, only to quickly change to the highest rank (Elite) the following year. 2014 was also the year arch-rival Mathieu van de Poel made his move into the Elite class. In Van Aert’s first season, he beat Sven Nys (Belgium’s most successful cyclocross racer) in the Koppenbergcross and, in doing so, made it clear that a generational switch was taking place. He also placed second at the world championships, behind Mathieu van der Poel.
The following year, Wout van Aert only seemed to improve. He won just about everything there was to win. He became Belgian champion, won the highest number of points in the UCI Cyclocross World Cup competition, the superprestige and the DVV Trophy. And to round the season off, he became world champion in Zolder, Belgium. Having totted up 18 wins in a single year, he was clearly a rider to be reckoned with.
The 2016 season
Wout van Aert was perhaps even better during the 2016–2017 season. He once again won the world cyclocross cup series, but this time with four victories instead of one. He was also invincible in the DVV Trophy and was also crowned Belgian national champion. And if that wasn’t enough, he was crowned world champion for a second time in Luxembourg.
In the season which followed, Van Aert experienced his first career dip. He had won 18 races the season before, but this time, Mathieu van der Poel made his life a lot more difficult. But, when it really mattered, Van Aert showed his form and won the world championships for the third time.
From cyclocross to road racing
Van Aert decided to test his legs in the professional road racing peloton straight after the cyclocross season. This test made a serious impression. In his first season he was third in a very tough edition of the Strade Bianchi. He was also ninth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and 10th in Gent-Wevelgem. He also entered Paris-Roubaix and clocked up 13th place, a highly respectable result for a debutant. He also won the Tour of Denmark, which also included a stage victory. He placed third at the European Championships.
This made it clear that Wout van Aert was ready to join the professional road racing ranks, which caused friction in the 2018/ 2019 season. His team Veranda’s Willems-Crelan opted to merge with Roompot without informing Van Aert. He was so angry about this that he ripped up his contract. This year he’s riding independently, which hasn’t gone well so far. He only managed to win a race in Ardooie, a minor event.
But don’t write Wout van Aert off just yet. There’s a good chance he’ll be present and correct at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships. It will also be very interesting to see what the rest of his career will bring. Rumour has it he will soon be involved with Team LottoNL–Jumbo. Watch this space…