The best-laid plans of mice and men often go wrong.
Last September, Wout van Aert lit up the Tour de France tarmac for Jumbo-Visma. The Belgian seemed to be winning stages for fun and riding in the mountains in the service of his team manager Primož Roglič.
Van Aert and his team were hoping he could pick up where he left off last fall by landing an early yellow on opening weekend before crossing through France on the Roglič train.
Read also : Wout van Aert and his summer failure
Less than two weeks before the Grand Départ, this yellow dream falters as the 26-year-old struggles to regain his form after an appendicitis operation in early May. Having been consistently reliable in last year’s Tour, van Aert’s bumpy road to Brittany makes him a stranger in 2021.
“We are not where we want to be,” said Jumbo-Visma performance director Mathieu Heijboer. The last news this week.
“The appendix surgery was a big blow. Wout was busy building after the classics. He went up with us, to the Sierra Nevada, then rode the Dauphiné. Instead, he sat at home and was unable to do anything for a while. It still bothers him. He is certainly not where we hoped he would be in a normal situation.
Van Aert hasn’t ridden since his paper-thin victory over Tom Pidcock in the Amstel Gold Race in April after retiring from the Critérium du Dauphiné to regain his form through training.
If the training route to the Tour de France is good enough for Roglič, then it is certainly good enough for van Aert.
But it’s also different for van Aert, who was forced to take a week off the bike after his appendectomy and was only able to exert moderate efforts for a while.
Riding on the Dauphiné could have done him more harm than good and making his way to the Tour through training became the only real option. However, the smooth approach has meant van Aert has had a lot of ground to catch up since he started to finish training again.
“It was an operation where his abs were cut. It had an impact on his physique, it wasn’t just that he stayed seated. Her body also took a long time to heal. This obviously thwarted a good preparation, ”said Heijboer. The last news.
— Wout van Aert (@WoutvanAert) May 8, 2021
Countdown to yellow
As time is inexorably running towards the Tour de France, van Aert is running out of time to find what was lost during his forced break.
In order to make up for lost time, Van Aert has racked up the miles at altitude. He made a stint in the Sierra Nevada in Spain at the end of May, and he is back this week in the ski resort of Tignes in the French Alps.
He has decided to forgo the full effort of the Belgian national time trial championship later this week and Sunday’s road race will be his only competition before the Tour. Unless he takes a big round on Sunday, he and we are unlikely to know how well he is until the Tour de France rolls out on June 26.
Despite the setbacks, “Wout stays Wout” according to Heijboer, and although the yellow dream falters, he has yet to give up his own summer goals.
“Wout has already shown a lot of special things that we didn’t think possible. We have great confidence in him. This first weekend of the Tour will clearly show if this catch-up race was a success. Make sure you don’t ignore it. We will do our best to make it successful this first weekend.
He will start the road race and the individual time trial🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/ZXKbN8Ly7b
-Jumbo-Visma cyclist team (@JumboVismaRoad) June 11, 2021
While it would be foolish to count van Aert on just about anything he tries, it wouldn’t be fair to place him as the favorite for a win in the Tour’s opening weekend. He will face serious competition with Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde – to name a few – for this debut yellow jersey of the race.
Van Aert might have a yellow heart at the end of the month, but that’s not his only goal for the summer after being confirmed to the Belgian squad for the Tokyo Olympics at the end of July. He also still has a job to do for Roglič, who wants to straighten his fortune from the 2020 Tour de France.
“The summer did not go well, but after my appendicitis I was fortunate to be surrounded by the right people and I am convinced that they chose the best possible approach,” said van Aert in an update posted to social media on Friday by Jumbo. -Visma. “In the meantime, I am training, with my family, in Tignes.
“I want to stay here as long as possible to train as best I can for the Tour de France and the Games. My only competition before the Tour is the Belgian road championship in Waregem. We think after the injury I can mainly use the whole time for hours of training.
“This approach will hopefully allow me to be in the best possible shape at the start of the Tour and with absolute certainty at my best to get to Tokyo after the Tour. “
Only time will tell what van Aert is capable of and if he can live up to last year’s mad race, or if he has to come to terms with his own expectations as well as those of the fans.