Speaking to WielerFlits, Gianni Vermeersch, the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider, discussed his intention to maintain a presence in cyclo-cross despite an increased focus on the road season. He disclosed that he aims to compete in about ten cyclocross events from mid-December onwards. This plan of action is similar to his approach in the previous year, where he engaged in cyclocross from December until the Belgian championship. Vermeersch stressed the importance of this schedule for sustaining a solid fitness base as well as keeping his technical skills sharp.
The previous winter was not up to par for Vermeersch. He participated in just eight cyclocross races and failed to crack the top-10 in any of them, a disappointing outcome that he attributed to a combination of extended rest and insufficient specific training in the discipline. His late entry to the Gravel World Championships, in which he emerged victorious, contributed to his reduced preparation for cyclocross.
Reflecting on his preparation errors, Vermeersch conceded that he lingered too long on his gravel bike, carried away by the allure of gravel riding. He practised long rides on broad tyres on gravel, only to realise that it was starkly different from cyclocross, particularly in terms of technical skills. As a result, he has resolved to regain his proficiency in the technical aspects of cyclocross.
However, Vermeersch ruled out any possibility of competing at the World Cyclocross Championships in Tábor, indicating a reluctance to jeopardise his spring season for a shot at a top-10 finish at the World Championships. Instead, he is managing his cyclocross commitments to ensure that they don’t impinge upon his road racing objectives.
On the road, Vermeersch recounted a poignant moment from the previous season – missing out on the Tour de France despite being deep in training for it, which resulted in a challenging mental build-up towards the Vuelta. Looking forward, the Belgian rider expressed a desire to be a part of the Tour de France in the following year, stating that participating in this prestigious race would complete his career, having already experienced both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Vermeersch’s ambitions on the road also include a noteworthy performance in the previous season’s Paris-Roubaix, where he finished eleventh in a race won by his teammate Mathieu van der Poel. The fact that he did not participate in a Grand Tour last year, despite doing so in the two preceding years, added a twist to his season, adding to his motivation to earn a spot in the upcoming Tour de France. His loyal service to Van der Poel as a lieutenant in the team was also highlighted, with an accompanying image displaying Vermeersch alongside the world champion.