“Of course, I would have liked to win, but it’s a good second place. I will replay this sprint a few times before I fall asleep, but I don’t think I made any big mistakes. ”
The pair had, following Gent-Wevelgem, been engulfed in a controversy over the race for victory instead of denying the other victory. Van der Poel has already called the “spat” a “media hype”, while Van Aert also scoffed at the situation.
“We talked a lot during the race,” he joked. “We went through all the newspaper articles this week.
“No, seriously – we kept abreast of the time difference, but otherwise the focus was on the race. Mathieu and I made our turns and worked well together. ”
The duo should have been accompanied by Julian Alaphilippe of Elegant-QuickStep in the final – a three-way battle against Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. This tantalizing match was not, however, to be with the Frenchman caught in a motorcycle accident with 35 kilometers to go, just a few kilometers after the trio parted ways over Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg.
With Alaphilippe at the back of the trio, he crashed into the back of a slow-racing jury motorcycle, seemingly unnoticed as his two companions swerved to avoid it. Van Aert said he felt bad for Alaphilippe, but added that he felt the Frenchman was not paying enough attention at the time.
“I passed the race, but it makes sense that I try to stay in that wake as long as possible,” he said. “If Julian fell because of this, I want to apologize, but I think he was just a little inattentive.
“It’s a shame for him, otherwise we would have been three. It would have been a different final – a little more tactical. After that, Mathieu and I quickly understood that we could not let each other down and that we were going to Oudenaarde together. We both had confidence in our sprint. ”
Van Aert also had some bad luck, crashing earlier in the race after Oude Kwaremont’s first pass at halfway. He fell gently onto a grassy edge and quickly started up again, but said the pursuit effort – and the subsequent bridge effort to Van der Poel and Alaphilippe on the Taaienberg – had it seen spending vital energy.
“Of course, it wasn’t ideal,” Van Aert said of his spill. “I rode alone to come back a bit too long. Someone braked in front of me and I couldn’t brake fast enough, so I had to hit an Ineos driver. After that, I lost the good feeling a bit, and had to take my place back. But in the end, there was nothing left for me to do and I was able to compete in the final. ”
Despite the end result – the smallest of losses – Van Aert said he was satisfied with his 2020 season, a year that saw him win Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, two Tour de France stages and two medals in silver at the World Championships, among other best results.
The cancellation of Paris-Roubaix – where he finished 13th and 22nd in the past two seasons – hit him hard, he admitted, adding that now his season is over, he will be spending time with his pregnant wife , Sarah De Bie.
“Yes, this feeling [that I had a good season] should quickly take over. After the Tour de France and the world championships, I worked hard to stay in shape, and that’s great. I’m proud to be as good as me at Strade Bianche and at the start of the season.
“However, it is a pity that Paris-Roubaix does not go ahead. I had a mentally difficult time when the cancellation became official. It is, with the Round, the most beautiful race there is; that’s what I trained for. .
“Now I won’t be riding for a fortnight, and I also want to enjoy Sarah’s pregnancy. They say it’s the most beautiful thing in the world, don’t they? I will need November to prepare for the cyclo. cross season. We’ll see exactly when I come back. ”