Glorious return to cyclocross for Van Empel
Fem van Empel has marked her return to the field with a victory. The 21-year-old...
On Sunday, Wout van Aert will compete in the gravel World Championships in the Veneto region of Italy. The passion and love for this cycling discipline are so great that the Team Jumbo-Visma rider aims for a top result. "Valverde the favourite? He could be. I am aiming for a podium."
Van Aert has loved gravel racing since childhood. "As a cyclocross rider, I was used to training off-road", the Belgian points out. "In those days, I mainly did endurance rides to prepare for cyclocross. The love for gravel cycling has never gone away. It has only grown."
During the coronavirus years, Van Aert increasingly found his natural habitat on the gravel. "We had to sit at home often, but with some friends, we tried the gravel cycling to get through that period. That was mainly near our 'home'. We found a lot of new tracks and roads." The 'gravel beast' in the Belgian all-rounder was unleashed. "I became more and more interested and watched a lot of races. The discipline became more and more interesting for me."
"I'm really looking forward to it."
Van Aert wants to finish the season well at the World Championship in the Veneto region in Italy. "I asked the team to end my season with the Gravel World Championship. That was no problem, and I am looking forward to it", Van Aert says.
The Coppa Bernocchi winner and his teammate Riejanne Markus, who will be competing in the women's race at the World Championships on Saturday, will be staying in a superbly located hotel in the Muro di Ca' del Poggio, right next to the course. "I have only been able to look at the course online. Good reconnaissance is a prerequisite when riding on gravel. I know there are a lot of steep climbs. I want to experience them myself before the race starts."
Van Aert has heard good stories about the region and the course. "I will be staying and racing in this part of Italy for the first time. I'm really looking forward to it. With the good weather forecast for this time of year, it should be an excellent race."
According to Van Aert, winning the race will be no easy task. "There will probably be a lot of good WorldTour riders at the start. And the real specialists who ride this kind of race all season will also be there. I have only done one gravel race this season. That was in Houffalize in August. I won that one, but it is difficult to judge the level of the competition. We have to be prepared for everything and consider all possible scenarios. I understand that Alejandro Valverde considers himself the favourite. That could be the case. I'm aiming for the podium myself."