By Jonny Long
Ineos Grenadiers have joined the race to sign Wout van Aert, and the Belgian rider is still in talks with the British team despite Jumbo-Visma being hopeful they can get their rider to sign a new deal within the next couple of weeks.
This is according to Dutch website Wielerflits, who report that Ineos first made contact with Van Aert's management at the 2020 Tour de France, where the 26-year-old won two stages and showed his super domestique abilities coming off the back of victories at Strade Bianche and Milan - San Remo.
Although the two parties continue to talk, with Van Aert's price tag having risen considerably following a dominant 2020 season, the Belgian is understood to be happy at Jumbo-Visma, the team he chose over Ineos when he stepped up to the WorldTour in 2019.
Having signed Tom Pidcock for the 2021 season, the British team have shown they are able to offer top talents the opportunity to combine road and cyclocross ambitions, which would also suit three-time world cyclocross champion Van Aert.
Alongside Pidcock, Ineos have recruited strongly ahead of the 2021 season, bringing in Adam Yates, Dani Martínez and Laurens De Plus, as well as bringing back Richie Porte. With the likes of Chris Froome leaving, the richest team in the peloton will have even more salary budget to sign the strongest riders.
Having already retained the 'Flandrien of the year' award from Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, Van Aert also won the 'Kristallen Fiets' for the best Belgian cyclist, as well as being voted Belgium's 'Sportsman of the Year'.
Van Aert received double the number of points as footballer Romelu Lukaku, who came second, while Deceuninck - Quick-Step's Remco Evenepoel took third.
The Belgian will line up for the cyclocross UCI World Cup in Namur this weekend, competing against long-time rival Mathieu van der Poel for the first time this winter.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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