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Wout van Aert finished fifth in the Azencross in Loenhout on his return to cyclocross. It was the first time since his crash in the Tour de France that the 25-year-old Belgian from Team Jumbo-Visma has appeared at the start of a race.
Van Aert had a good start, got the holeshot and was the first rider to enter the field. During the race the Team Jumbo-Visma rider showed that he had not lost his touch. Van Aert maintained his place in front, in a chasing group that fought for fourth place. A big boost for Van Aert after a long period of injury.
"I enjoyed it immensely today," a satisfied Van Aert said. “It was a super fun crowd and I was able to show myself. At the start I found a gap, so I had a good position. I haven't forgotten how to do that yet. Given the course, it was convenient to get off to a good start."
“My body showed few signs of trouble during the race. The second half of the race I got a bit of a pain in my right hip, but it went really well. There were some treacherous parts in the course where you had to get off the bike. This had an impact on my right leg, but it felt good. I hope it will continue this way in the upcoming days."
Van Aert did not dare to dream of a fifth place in advance. “I surprised myself with that. From here I can continue building. In the final lap there was a fight in our group for place four. It's great that I was able to ride a final right away. I will ride the cross in Gullegem and the Belgian championship. After the BC I will see how it goes and we will make further plans. That planning will mainly be about the Spring Classics on the road, where I will try to be on top level. I am certainly not going to force anything in cyclocross, just because it went well today. I still have a long way to go."