Wout van Aert plans a brief cyclocross campaign before the 2024 road cycling season

The cyclocross community is abuzz with the recent unveiling of Wout van Aert’s concise race itinerary for the holiday season, with only a handful of appearances slated for December, though the door remains open for additional engagements. The Belgian rider, who represents Team Jumbo-Visma, is purposefully curtailing his cyclocross undertakings to avoid jeopardising his ambitious 2024 road season prospects, featuring the Spring Classics, a potential Giro d’Italia participation, the anticipated Paris Olympic Games, and the Road World Championships in Zurich.

Van Aert’s Holiday Spell

Van Aert is expected to grace the starting lines of competitions he reigned supreme over the previous year. Notably, he is set to participate in two Exact Cross events — one in Mol on December 22, and another in Loenhout on December 29, with an intervening race, the Superprestige in Diegem, on December 28. His calendar also marks the World Cup of Antwerp on December 23 and the X2O Trofee of Baal on New Year’s Day.

Clashing With UCI Regulations

Despite the fanfare, the three-time cyclocross world champion’s plans have ruffled feathers at the UCI and World Cup organiser Flanders Classics. Van Aert’s decision to sidestep four UCI World Cup races – namely Namur, Gavere, Hulst, and Zonhoven, scheduled between December 17 and January 7 – has not sat well with the cycling authority. UCI President David Lappartient’s discontent has led him to float the possibility of restricting riders from the World Championships should they opt out of World Cup races – a notion prompted by U23 world champion Thibau Nys’s similar move.

Rival Riders and Uphill Battles

Compounding the intrigue, Mathieu van der Poel, Van Aert’s foremost adversary and reigning cyclocross world champion with Alpecin-Deceuninck, is confirmed to commence his season at the same Mol event. Van der Poel intends to compete in a total of 15 races over the winter, all building up to the Cyclocross World Championships scheduled for February 4 in Tabor. Meanwhile, Van Aert’s final racing schedule remains to be officially released, with the potential inclusion of additional races and the uncertainty of his participation in the Cyclocross World Championship in Tabor.

Colombian Sojourn

Outside the racing circuit, Van Aert has garnered attention with his current presence in Colombia. He’s the guest of honour at the Giro del Rigo, a hugely popular gran fondo put together by Rigoberto Urán of EF Education-EasyPost. Urán himself is looking forward to a grand exit post the 2024 Olympics in Paris, culminating an 18-year tenure as a professional rider.